(There is a hint of this story, though not the main point, in Kipling’s short “On the Gate.” He calls his main human character St. Peter; as this has the necessary associations for most Western readers, it is followed here to save explanations.)
An Angel was appointed to judge one whole generation of humans. He had been given a limited omniscience and omnipresence, so that he could live through their lives with those whom he would afterwards judge.
When the last member of the generation had died, he was told to get ready for his task. But he was instructed to pay his respects to St. Peter first.
In a clear voice, the angel explained to St. Peter, “I shall not judge these humans from the outside. I was given the grace to be with them, in fact in them, every moment of their lives. I have known all the difficulties and temptations they were subject to. I have lived through their agonies of indecision, I have succeeded with them and failed with them. I have given my life to save my friends, and I have betrayed my friends to save my own skin. I have been a compassionate helper, and I have been a murderer.”
“How do you propose to judge them?” asked St. Peter.
“I have the record of all that happened, and another, of all that ought to have happened. I shall compare the lists, and judge on that basis. As I said, I know their free will is limited. Though I am an angel and absolutely pure, I have been through it all with them. I shall take everything into consideration, of course. I am fully qualified to be a judge.
St. Peter said, “For that, you still lack one thing.”
“And what is that?”
“You are an angel, and absolutely pure. You don’t know what it is to need forgiveness yourself.”
The angel looked at St. Peter, and St. Peter looked at the angel.
Then the angel whispered, “Yes, I’ve been self-righteous and arrogant. Forgive me,” and he knelt.
St. Peter blessed him and said, “Now go and judge