This seems to get a little closer to your point actually and I understand maybe a bit better what is troubling you. In some ways, @Mervin_Bitikofer and @Realspiritik have made some important points on that. You also understand that we cannot know so well what is really in someone’s heart.
I realize that evangelicals can evoke some well-deserved, sardonic retorts for their vacuous platitudes. The thing about genuine repentance is that we begin to grasp the evil we have done in God’s sight, we have some real understanding why it is evil, and (maybe more important) we recognize that we are not so different from those who do wrong in this world.
It is not necessarily that we have done some grandiose sin. However, we realize that it was only the barrier of access to opportunity kept us in check, and we could have done worse things than even the putrid vats of scum we pour our judgment out on – given we had that chance. If we were rich, maybe we begin to see that we were just kept out of the path of temptations that people in poverty often experience. Sometimes, that awareness comes from a mild tap on the shoulder, sometimes it means colliding head-on into a brick wall. The thing is, we recognize that we don’t want to do it again, we begin to see the ugliness in our hearts, and we know we need God’s help even to turn around and not fall into the same mistakes again. “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (Ps 51:17)
We don’t completely grasp this in one instant either, at least I certainly did not. We grasp small parts of it. – “Jesus paid it all” … well, yeah, he did, but he didn’t have to pay so much for me as that clown over there. Did you hear what he did? I mean, I’m a sinner, but that? … – We learn as-we-go-forward what Jesus has done and little-by-little we learn to speak idly less-and-less. Yet there is joy in that victory when we can know that because we believed in God, we did not bend to the ways of the world in our own experience of the “valley of darkness”.
I understand the cynicism. Many police officers are cynical because they hear of lots of people who suddenly “believe in Jesus” when the jail door slams. – Oh, yeah, “praise the Lord”, … hmm – but I think this gets a bit into @Mervin_Bitikofer 's point. You can be junk bond king for a while, you can make lots of money on shorts and derivatives, mapping out things where you expect them to go, … until they don’t. It looks to me like a white-knuckle roller-coaster ride. But just like this kind of gambling in investment, consider what Genghis Khan once said about pleasure: The greatest pleasure is “to crush your enemies, to see them fall at your feet — to take their horses and goods and hear the lamentation of their women. That is best.” (I see that the motives in his heart were to do a lot of “good” in the world.) Maybe there could be a genuine death-bed conversion here, but it is hard to imagine for a mind like that.
Repentance itself only God can know, and, unlike us, God cannot be fooled or mocked. (The excuses we make for people in the world do not count at the face of God.) Moreover, even if there were a genuine death-bed conversion, at minimum, from God’s bird’s-eye-view of history and ultimate grasp of meaning, a genuine change would have to occur, or such is just cheap theater for the masses of the world. I understand your cynicism, but we are talking about God, not what man does or the excuses man rationalizes away. This is the court of the almighty God where nothing is hidden and the secret motives of our hearts cannot be shrouded by pretense or demeanor or suit-and-tie, or whatever.
The only just punishment that could be brought down on a man like Khan would be one that God decides and delivers. How about people who have accomplished even greater evil than the Assyrians (of old), the Khans and the like … what demonstration of real justice could man possibly do? A fair judge at the end of the age is all we really have to resolve such unspeakable and unfathomable crimes – and, by the way, often carried out and supported by many.
Of course, I do speak here as one who believes in God and believes that there is purpose; that life is a gift that we should not abuse, there is meaning in doing right independent of how the world views power and responsibility, and this can in some way be discerned. At least if any part of this is approaching the truth, then I can really appreciate that hymn that goes
“When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing that will be,
when we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing shout the victory.”
– it may be a simple-mind song in some ways, but more-and-more, I can only say “indeed!”
I think @Realspiritik also makes a good point about learning forgiveness. I still struggle with great difficulty with forgiveness myself. Small things I easily let go of, but it is hard when someone (or some people) have cost me something very big. We sometimes have to carry the cross for a long time, and the people who have been so rotten couldn’t even care less for what they have done. Forgiveness can only come out of our heart when we realize of what Jesus had to do even for us. We’ve also cost God dearly; sometimes with our stupidity, sometimes with our hubris, sometimes with our uselessly idle mouth, sometimes with our pride, sometimes with our envy, and so on. But if we understand what Jesus has done to forgive us, we can begin to let go.
What we should want and pray is that people genuinely repent and turn to God because then they will stop being workers of iniquity and strife; rather than be like a Khan and eventually be given over to the worst of our own selves and meet the Almighty at the other end. Only God, in God’s blessed timing, can bring about repentance. Likewise, only God can deliver justice is merciful and fair.
– by Grace we proceed
[some edits for spelling errors, grammar, redaction and clarifying minor points]
[PS. I notice from some posts that occurred in the meantime that perhaps some of this was “preaching to the choir”. Someone who genuinely repents would surely demonstrate a life worthy of that repentance, whether the judge lets the person go free or makes the person spend time in jail. Repentance does mean accepting the judgment in this world too. Perhaps when their kids visit them in prison, they would instruct them in ways that would keep them out of that world. Perhaps when they get out of prison, they dedicate their lives to doing things that help keep the next generation from ending up there. If you really understand who you are, there is a change. It will not persuade everyone, but that is partly their problem with unforgiveness. You’ve got to start paying attention to what God wants you to do, and stop listening to other people’s cheap gossip … and also realize that you’re on a journey that will not always have the wind blowing at your back and the sun shining.]