Notorious Conversions

What are we to think when drug traffickers and child killers profess Christ?

Moments before Westley Allan Dodd was executed by hanging at the Washington State Penitentiary earlier this year, the convicted serial child killer was given the customary opportunity for last words. Here was a man who had viciously abused and mutilated three young boys, a man who said he would do it again, a man who said there was no hope he would ever be released from the hideous darkness within his soul.

His final words came as a shock: “I was wrong when I said there was no hope, no peace,” Dodd said. “There is hope. There is peace. I have found both in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

According to an eyewitness, the father of two of the boys murdered by Dodd “hissed quietly” when Dodd invoked the name of Jesus.

No one can fault this father for his contempt and skepticism. Until then, Dodd had shown no remorse. He would mutilate and murder again, he said, if not put to death.

Honest evangelicals will admit to the same disbelief when they hear that a Dodd or a Noriega—or 20 years ago a Colson—turned to Jesus and found forgiveness. Though we claim that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13), we act as though the gospel is for really nice people.

When nasty is nice

In reality, it is much harder for the nice to find salvation than for the bad to turn to the Lord. C. S. Lewis wrote, “There is … a reason why nasty people might be expected to turn to Christ in greater numbers than nice ones. That was what people objected to about Christ during his life on earth: he seemed to attract ‘such awful people.’ ” Take Zacchaeus, for example. Jesus’ encounter with this tax-gathering cheat is the context for his statement ...

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