April 2020 — pg. 8
Inside that prison, Je"rey Dahmer encountered Jesus and
Preston Sprinkle, in “Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for
Us” (fmchr.ch/charis), tells the story. Mary Mott watched a
television interview with Dahmer and began sending Bible
studies to him. He asked for more, and she sent more; she
also sent Roy Ratcli", a local Church of Christ minister. Not
too long a#er, Ratcli" led Dahmer to Christ and baptized
An old gospel song of the church has the Lord Jesus
proclaiming, “Rejoice! I have found my sheep,” but the
church did not unanimously celebrate the news of Dahmer’s
conversion. According to Sprinkle, “Many people were
cynical, doubtful, even angry — like the Old Testament
prophet Jonah — over Dahmer’s ‘religious experience’ in
prison. Roy Ratcli" recalls with discouragement that many
people he talked to doubted Dahmer’s conversion. And most
of these doubters were Christians.”
When I told that story in a sermon, a family chose to stop
attending. We could not be a church that believed in grace
that included serial murderers and be their church too.
I wouldn’t want you to be too critical of that family. Grace
at God’s level challenges us.
In Philip Yancey’s “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”
(fmchr.ch/yancey), he tells of a conference where C.S. Lewis
identi$ed grace as the most unique doctrine of Christianity.
Grace sets believers in Jesus apart from believers in any
Grace tells an amazing story: the story of a God estranged
from creatures He had created in love and blown the breath
of life into their lungs. Estranged in a way that no spiritual
bandage could mend, God gave Himself to do away with the
Having been commanded to multiply and $ll the earth,
these creatures obeyed that directive with fervency, now
all separated from their Creator. Some separated in purely
internal, invisible ways, living lives that did not demonstrate
open rebellion. Some were so reprehensible in character and
action that other humans saw their depravity and hated them.
!e numbers were so great, the separation so complete.
But God, so gracious!
So gracious that He extended His grace to all those
estranged creatures, all across the planet, through all the
years of time. “For this is how much God loved the world
— He gave His one and only, unique Son as a gi#. So
now everyone who believes in Him will never perish but
experience everlasting life” (John 3:16 TPT).
Church people commonly share this de$nition of grace:
God’s unmerited favor. Sprinkle writes, “Grace is God’s
aggressive pursuit of, and stubborn delight in, freakishly foul
people.” As the Passion Translation accurately tells us, Jesus
was given as a gi# — and the Greek word translated as grace
in our New Testament actually means, well, gi".
One time the Martins got invited to spend Christmas Eve
with a family from our church. !e great holidays of the faith
o#en make family visits impossible for pastors, if the family
doesn’t live close — and ours didn’t. Our kids, teens and
younger, wanted to go to this gathering. !e matriarch who
had invited us was a great cook.
A#er dinner, we all gathered around their Christmas tree,
and we expected to watch as they opened their gi#s. We’d
coached the kids to “oooh” and “ahhh” at the right times. !e
Martins got shocked. Our hosts distributed gi#s to everyone
— even to us, and we did not belong to this family.
We have to be careful not to think that God is just the
best version of us possible, as William Paul Young cautions
against in “!e Shack” (fmchr.ch/shack). But when we see
grace extended by one of us, it’s at least a dim, blurry picture
of the perfect grace extended by a perfect God who gives that
gi# — charis, grace — to anyone who will receive it. !e gi#
of grace is at the base of His tree, the cross, and it has your
name on it — no matter your name.
“W$ coul% n& b$ '
churc( )ha* believe%
+! grac$ )ha* +nclude%
,eria- murdere. /n% b$
)heir churc( )o0.”