A Gospel for Serial Killers

A Gospel for Serial Killers

Ted Bundy was convicted of killing thirty-six women and girls, making him one of the most notorious serial killers of all time. While waiting on death row for his execution, Ted turned his life over to Jesus and became a Christian. He repented publicly for his crimes and spent his final night praying with his pastor.

Ted Bundy was a rapist.

Ted Bundy was a murderer.

Ted Bundy was a liar.

Assuming Ted Bundy really did confess his sins and put his whole trust in Jesus, today Ted is in heaven with Jesus.

The gospel applies to people in every nation and age bracket. It is for "good" people and really, really bad people.

Many people have questioned Ted’s conversion. I guess it’s hard for our minds to conceive that someone guilty of such evil could truly turn from their wicked ways and run toward Jesus. But I can only assume that Ted’s decision to become a Christian was legit. If I’m honest, there’s a part of me that is irritated by it. How could Jesus forgive a serial killer? That’s not fair!

God must have of known I would have this internal tug of war, because He addressed it often in His Word. Though not an easy pill to swallow, here is some hard-hitting truth about who really deserves the gospel and how to wrap our heads around the fairness of God.

The Good News is For All People

When the angel told the shepherds about the birth of Jesus, he announced it this way: "And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).

The angel wasn’t talking in generalizations. He wasn’t from the south, using the term "all" like "y’all" to include whoever was standing around at the moment. The Good News of Christ’s coming was for all people.

Jesus repeated this idea in Mark 16:15 when He gave the Great Commission.

And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation."

The gospel is for all people. It applies to people in every nation and age bracket. It is for "good" people and really, really bad people. It is for young and old people. It is for people who have gone to church their whole lives and people who have never sat in a pew.

The Gospel is for Sinners

For most of us, there is a pocket of our hearts that questions if God’s grace should really extend to them. This is nothing new.

In Matthew 9, Jesus called Matthew to be a disciple. Matthew was a tax collector. Meaning, Matthew was scum. Nobody liked tax collectors because they were notorious thieves and schemers. So when Jesus called Matthew, the Pharisees got their feathers ruffled.

And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (vv. 11–13).

The gospel is not about making clean lives even cleaner. It’s not about making good people even better good people. It is about extending undeserved grace to those who have earned death because of their sin. The end result is that we get to become more like Jesus.

Be Glad God Is Generous

In Matthew 20, Jesus told a story designed to give us perspective on who deserves His grace. You can read the entire thing in Matthew 20:1–16.

Here are the highlights:

  • A man needs workers to work in his vineyard.
  • Early in the morning, he recruits a group of workers and agrees to pay them a denarius for a day of work. (That’s about $20.)
  • The men get right to work.
  • About mid-morning the vineyard owner goes to the grocery store and hires two more workers. He agrees to pay them $20, too.
  • He goes out again at noon and then in the late afternoon. Each time he hires more workers, always for the same wage.
  • At the end of the day, he paid all of the workers $20, no matter how long they worked.
  • The guys who had been working all day were mad! They couldn’t believe that the guys who had only been working an hour or two were paid the same amount that they were for working all day.

The vineyard owner replied this way, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? So the last will be first, and the first last" (vv. 13–16).

If I’m honest, I often feel like those workers who got hired first. Because I’ve known Jesus a long time, I feel entitled to greater blessings from Him. But God has the right to do what He wants. (He’s God after all!) He certainly doesn’t need me armchair-quarterbacking when it comes to the salvation of others.

And more importantly . . .

God’s generosity has been a great gift to me. At the end of the day, I shouldn’t want God to be "fair," because that would mean that I deserve punishment instead of grace. Instead of secretly hoping God will be stingy toward others, we can celebrate His crazy generosity.

The Thief Beside You

Jesus was crucified between two thieves. They admitted they were guilty. What happened to them might fit into our definition of "fair." They were getting what they deserved.

One thief mocked Jesus, never admitting his need for him.

But one recognized Jesus’ divinity and innocence. He publicly proclaimed his desire to be with Jesus forever.

And [Jesus] said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).

That thief didn’t deserve paradise. He never did a single thing to earn grace. He didn’t go to church, didn’t lead a Bible study, didn’t pay back the money he had stolen . . . but God’s grace is crazy big. He offers it to us freely because He loves us, not because we’ve done anything to earn it.

Maybe it’s not serial killers or thieves who make you question the fairness of the gospel.

  • Maybe it’s that girl at school who is into such dark stuff that you don’t even bother to pray for her.
  • Maybe it’s people from a certain religion that you think would never accept the truth.
  • Maybe it’s someone who hurt you so deeply you secretly hope they will have to pay a heavy price for their sin.

The bottom line is that the gospel isn’t fair. None of us deserve the gift of grace that God so freely offers. With that in mind, would you ask God to show you where you have "begrudged His generosity" toward others, and then start praying radical prayers for the lost around you?

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At the end of the day, here’s why we shouldn’t want God to be "fair." @lywbblog