There was A lot of talk today about executed murderer Tookie Williams. The right-wing talk show hosts were quick to celebrate the execution, which was a bit crass for my liking. Yet it came after so many people protested the death sentence because Williams was said to have been a changed person. He wrote childrens' books, he turned his life around -- why, they asked, can't people just forget about what happened in the past?
The answer seemed pretty obvious to me. After all there were four people whose lives ended almost a quarter of a century ago because of this gang leader's actions. This was a matter of justice. And whether you agree with the use of the death penalty or not, you must admit that a man who killed four people in cold blood should be a prime candidate for the harshest penalty available. Yet wasn't Willimas rehabilitated? Wasn't he reformed?
As I heard all this discussion on the radio today, my mind drifted back a few years when the person awaiting execution was Carla Faye Tucker. You remember Tucker. Icepick killer in Texas. But what really gave her some noteriety was that she had accepted Jesus as Savior while on Death Row. Because of that, some Christian groups were appealing for the governor to spare Tucker. They claimed her changed life was not only verifiable, but also a great moral lesson for those contemplating serious crime. Here was a killer, but she was truly reformed. She had repented and had renounced her actions.
Tucker was executed above the protests of those who wanted to spare her life. Williams was executed early this morning above the protests of those wanting to spare his life. Was there a difference? Yes. While Williams was said to be rehabilitated and reformed, Tucker was repentant. However, both death sentences were carried out, and rightfully so in my opinion. After all the punishment is not for the actions since the trial, but for the actions which were the reason for the trial. I am very glad that Tucker found Christ before her death. I wish Williams had done the same. But from where I sit, neither deserved to have his or her punishment reduced.
In all of this, I'm reminded once again about the temporary nature of this life. Tucker won the prize, while but all accounts I've heard, Williams did not. The nearly twenty-five years on Death Row may have brought Tookie a different mindset, but not an eternal one.
But beyond that, it's incredible that a murderer can change so drastically. A life which was lived for selfishness can become a life lived for the glory of God. But is that any more incredible than the fact that He can bring me out of sin, or you out of sin? Even when it seems our life path is destined to be evil, God can grab us by the lapels and wake us out of a daze of selfishness. He does it when we finally understand that we are sinners in need of a Savior.
Years ago, one of the bishops of my denomination visited a convicted killer in prison and had his picture taken with the man. The murderer was astonished that such an important religious man would be photographed with a lowly criminal. The bishop turned to him and said, "Sir, we're both sinners. You may be a big sinner and I may be a small sinner, but in the eyes of God we're both sinners in need of a Savior." A simple truth which tends to escape our notice at times.
"Lord, thank You that although I deserve a horrible punishment, You have taken the penalty for me. Help me not to see others as worse than me. Help me to see us all with Your eyes. And help me to be able to share that simple truth with those who do not understand it."