The horrid beast who murdered upwards of 100 in Norway last week deserves the full measure of justice executed upon him, and worse. He deserves the wrath of God. And if he goes to his grave as he is, he will experience the eternal conscious torment of hell.
But if he repents and believes in Christ . . .
That little “twinge” we feel at the very idea is our brushing up against the scandal of the cross.
David Berkowitz — most (in)famously known as the “Son of Sam” — was a serial killer who terrorized New York City from 1976 to 1977. In 1987 he made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. “Of course he did,” we say. “They all do.” But his commitment to the faith has lasted, and his repentance has been visible and consistent, evidenced continually in his request not to be paroled in order to own the consequences of his sins and to not cause any distress to the families of his victims, and in his advocacy for victims’ rights groups, arguing that killers should not profit from writing or memorabilia related to their crimes. (Proceeds from Berkowitz’s own book go to a victims’ rights group, not to himself.)
This bothers a great many of us. We don’t care how repentant he looks; we reckon his crimes too heinous to forgive.
If this vicious murderer in Norway repents of his sins and trusts in Jesus’ saving work on his behalf, when he goes to his grave he will be welcomed into the arms of the Father like a beloved child.
If this bothers me, it is because I have forgotten most of the Psalms and most of the New Testament were written by murderers.
And it is because I consider myself a better judge than God.
And it is because I have forgotten that I deserve the same fate as this horrid beast. Or I think I do not face this fate because of some comparative goodness of my own.
It could be that we don’t often meditate on just how much Christ’s cross saved us from. And how much he bore when he hung on it.