Can someone who has lived an immoral life be forgiven just before death?

Two examples of situations that are a bit baffling.

A) The first is a friend who knew they were dying of AIDS and asked assistance from a pastor. The pastor consulted with them privately several times and put their mind at ease before death. I understand that there is purgatory, but if the right steps were followed, this is good news that someone returned to the church before they died, right?

B) A family member, of the Baby Boomer generation, was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school through high school, knows he should go back to church, but thinks it’s fine to just wait until he’s much older. It’s as if he feels as long as he’s in good health, he can hold off because he knows he’ll have to work at it to go back. He does attend church with us when he’s in town.

It seems like scenario A took so much courage to come back to the church. They didn’t ‘hold off’; they assumed they wouldn’t be accepted. In fact, they felt doomed to be separate from God. It was only after a lot of encouragement on our part, and a lot of courage on their part, that they returned.

Scenario B seems more…arrogant…not sure that’s the right word, since they know what they have to do but are purposely procrastinating. We’re trying to encourage them to take the plunge, so it speak, but it’s frustrating. Especially when compared to what our other friend went through. Are their more consequences for someone who holds off?

Yes, absolutely. We are all sinners in need of God’s mercy, and God offers His mercy to all who wish to repent and receive it. Much like the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), it doesn’t matter if we are in the Lord’s vineyard for a day or an hour all are receive to His mercy and love.

B) A family member, of the Baby Boomer generation, was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school through high school, knows he should go back to church, but thinks it’s fine to just wait until he’s much older. It’s as if he feels as long as he’s in good health, he can hold off because he knows he’ll have to work at it to go back. He does attend church with us when he’s in town.

This situation is a bit puzzling. We have no idea how long we have left here on earth, to assume we have many more years is ill advised. Its also not a scenario we would advise in any other relationship. Imagine not talking to your parents because you assumed they’d be alive for many more years and you can always re-establish your relationship later.

It seems like scenario A took so much courage to come back to the church. They didn’t ‘hold off’; they assumed they wouldn’t be accepted. In fact, they felt doomed to be separate from God. It was only after a lot of encouragement on our part, and a lot of courage on their part, that they returned.

Scenario B seems more…arrogant…not sure that’s the right word, since they know what they have to do but are purposely procrastinating. We’re trying to encourage them to take the plunge, so it speak, but it’s frustrating. Especially when compared to what our other friend went through. Are their more consequences for someone who holds off?

The consequences are, first and foremost, that they are missing out on a relationship with Jesus Christ in the here and now. Jesus came so that we might have life in its fullness (John 10:10). Other consequences are the slow hardening of one’s heart. The longer we are away by choice the more difficult it becomes to truly repent. As you pointed out, in scenario A the individual wanted to come back for a long time but didn’t know how to thus they had apparently long ago repented. In scenario B there is the danger of growing comfortable with sin and separation from God and when “the time comes” the individual might not desire to repent.

Only God can see into someone’s heart, we can only speculate as to why the individual in scenario B is “delaying.” There might be reasons or concerns that the individual hasn’t shared. We should be patient as God is patient and willing to help whenever possible but we can’t force someone to do or be something.

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