The Vilest Offender
By Brenda W. McIntyre –
Keith was one of my favorite cousins. It didn’t matter that I suffered endless teasing from him when I was a child. In spite of his pranks, I looked up to him.
I was startled and scared when, as a teenage boy, he threw cherry bombs under the trampoline while we girls were jumping. I was frightened when he locked my sister and me in the kitchen and told us someone died in that room. But I was amazed at the new gadgets he always seemed to have—a self-inking stamper disguised as a little tube, magic plastic he made into elastic balloons, and a real American flag that took up an entire wall in his room. I quickly forgot about being mad at Keith whenever he shared his hot toothpicks or made an elastic balloon for me.
I was proud of Keith when he began racing cars at the local race track. More often than not he was the winner. Then, I was overcome with grief on the day in August, 1992, when I received a phone call about his death. Keith was the victim of a heinous murder; killed in the prime of his life.
I waited breathlessly for Keith’s killer to be sentenced for the murder. Manslaughter. The verdict was manslaughter with the possibility of parole after 18 years. I was flabbergasted.
When the man responsible for Keith’s death came up for parole a few short years later, I wrote a letter to the State Board of Pardons and Paroles asking that he not be paroled from prison. I wanted him to serve his full sentence. I wanted him to pay for his crime. Again he came up for parole and I wrote another letter. Finally, after spending 14 years behind bars the man was released from prison.
I wondered how I would react if ever our paths crossed. What if he became a Christian? What if he started going to my church? The words to Fannie J. Crosby’s hymn, “To God Be the Glory,” rang out in my mind. The touching words say, “The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.” If that man cried out to God and asked for forgiveness, he was free from his sin. Regardless of the magnitude of his sins, all he has to do is simply believe in the Son of God and ask for forgiveness and he will receive pardon from Jesus. Salvation is provided as a gift from God regardless of one’s sins.
The man responsible for Keith’s death was living in a world of sin and darkness when he took my cousin’s life, but Jesus atoned for that sin. John 12:46 says “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
That same grace is available to you and me. Maybe we haven’t taken a life. Maybe we haven’t participated in criminal activity as defined by laws that govern us, but I can assure you we have sinned against God as outlined in the Bible. No one is free from sin. The wonderful news is stated in Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”