One rule of thumb that I have is that you have to be wary of people who say that they have changed and have stopped doing the bad things they once did. It is not that people cannot change. They can, but the most convincing testimony to that effect is that coming from other people, especially those who were the victims of that past behavior, not themselves.
Take the case of a 71-year old pastor Roy Harriger who was convicted of molesting two of his grandchildren. At his trial the pastor’s son, the father of those children, said that he himself had been molested by his father as a child. The pastor’s defense attorney asked him why, given that history, he had allowed his father to babysit his own children, which allowed the opportunity for the new molestations.
“I was a child then, he told me he had been possessed by demons, but that God had forgiven him,” the son replied. “He vowed he would never hurt anyone like that again, and that he would spend his life making up to what he’d done. I believed him.”
People who claim their own redemption are often self-serving. The ones who arouse the most suspicions in me are those who say that god has forgiven them. They cannot possibly know this for sure so that kind of arrogant claim is a suspicious sign that they are seeking to dupe others. And yet, because of the things that people believe about god’s forgiveness, people still take such claims at face value.