by Rachel Watson
Roy Ratcliff is the pastor who baptized infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
After Dahmer was convicted of 15 murders and sentenced to many lifetimes in prison, Ratcliff began visiting him and sharing the gospel. According to Ratcliff, Dahmer struggled to grasp the depths of God’s grace. It’s not hard to understand why. For someone who committed such atrocious acts, grace must have seemed unattainable. But in a 1994 interview with Stone Phillips, Dahmer said: “I have accepted [Jesus] as my Lord and Savior.” Though we won’t know of his sincerity until heaven, it’s possible that one of the most twisted serial killers of our lifetime said yes to grace.
Do you want to see Jeffrey Dahmer in heaven?
Ratcliff wrote a book about the time he spent with Dahmer. If you skim the comments under the book on Amazon.com, you will quickly see that our definition of grace doesn’t always reflect God’s. One reviewer wrote:
I don’t know why you, or the person who posted above you, cares about the state of Dahmer’s soul, much less has any desire to meet him in heaven. It’s just plain creepy. Some of the people who have read the pastor’s book, and written reviews, are thrilled that God can and does forgive anything, and how much hope it gives them of getting into heaven. Good Lord, what kind of sins did they commit themselves, to be “relieved” by something like that?
Not everyone shared this reviewer’s feelings, but it made me wonder about the limits we put on grace. We love knowing God can save someone like Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson from a past of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, but do we rejoice when he extends grace to a man who raped, killed, and even ate his victims? We want to see Brad Pitt in heaven while hoping Hitler didn’t have a last-minute conversion. We want God to forgive us when we worship our mini idols of leisure, but we shudder to think of a pedophile receiving the same forgiveness.
I praise God the decision isn’t ours. While I am guilty of holding onto mercy with tight, stingy fists, the God I serve is not. He offers grace through Christ to any who call on his name (Rom. 10:13).
Because of this, I might one day be singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” beside Jeffrey Dahmer. This excites me for three reasons…
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