Question: What do Lebron James, serial killer Jeffery Dahmer, and yours truly all have in common?
(No, that’s not the One-Question Test—it comes at the end).
Answer: All three of us used to live in Bath, Ohio. In fact, Lebron still owns a mansion there, I think.
Speaking of Dahmer, the other day I was told he made a Death Row confession of faith prior to having his skull bashed in by a fellow inmate in 1994. It sparked a storm of controversy about whether Dahmer, and people like him, could possibly show up in heaven.
I tried to imagine Jeffrey Dahmer in heaven. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I even drove to Dahmer’s old neighborhood and parked my car on the street outside his house–the very place where he gathered his prized roadkill collection as an adolescent. As I sat there I realized something. My understanding of grace was being put to the test.
Before I knew it I was looking up the story of the Thief on the Cross.
The Thief was another very bad guy who admittedly lived a very bad life. As the moment of his death drew near he must have seen something glorious in the blood-soaked, dying Savior on the cross next to him. So he makes a request:
Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.
In spite of His extreme suffering, the Son of Man knew this man inside and out. So His reply to the thief is shocking:
Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.
A couple of hours later the Thief’s legs were shattered with a club and he died on his cross before he could do one good thing. He was not baptized. He did not participate in any of the sacraments. And he didn’t serve a single meal in a soup kitchen.
Here’s a guy who never came close to “looking and talking and thinking and acting” like Jesus. And yet the Thief on the Cross becomes the very first person Jesus ushers into Paradise! If Jesus is for real then that really happened. Good news for the Thief and maybe Jeffery Dahmer.
But wait a minute. How can this be fair? That’s the test question.
Feel free to share your answer in the comment box below. Tomorrow I’ll venture an answer, too.