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12/7/2013 8:19:36 AM

"Repentance" is the title of a short story by the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. It's the tale of a repentant sinner and the difficulties he encounters as he attempts to enter Heaven. Having never done a good deed in his entire life, the old man's last words are an appeal to God as he begs, "Lord forgive me!"

The man dies and arrives at the gates of Heaven, only to find they are locked. He knocks repeatedly in a futile attempt to gain entry but his knocks go unanswered. And then a voice speaks to him from within the gate: "Who is this man that knocks at the gates of Paradise, and what deeds did he do during his life?"

The voice of his Accuser answers, reciting all of the man's evil deeds, and not even a single good one. And the voice from within the gates replies, "Sinners cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven." So the man says, "Lord, I hear your voice but I cannot see your face nor do I know your name." And the voice answers, "I am the Apostle Peter." And so the old sinner points out that for all of Peter's virtue, he still sinned by denying Christ. And yet, despite his appeal, the old sinner is denied entry.

And so he continues his knocking, and is again met by the list of sins recited by his Accuser. This time it's King David who explains that such a sinner cannot be allowed in. The man points out that for all of David's virtue, he still sinned by committing adultery. But again, the old man is denied entry.

The sinner persists, and a third voice is heard from within. "I am John, the beloved disciple of Christ." And the sinner rejoices saying, "Now surely I will be allowed to
enter. Was it not you John who wrote that God is Love, and he who loves not, knows not God? And then in old age did you not say, "Brothers, love one another." How then can you look at me with hatred and send me away?

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