"In Life and in Death "
May 20, 2017
2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
On April 27 the state of Arkansas executed Kenneth Williams.
The crimes which brought Williams to that point in time were these:
1. He had been serving a life sentence for killing a cheerleader.
2. He escaped prison, and was involved in the traffic death of Michael Greenwood.
3. While he was still at large Williams murdered Cecil Boren.
The purpose of this devotion is not to debate the pros and cons of capital punishment. Instead, I wish to share two pieces of information believers might wish to take to heart.
ITEM 1 - Williams had a 21-year-old daughter whom he had not seen since she was a little girl. He also had a granddaughter whom he had never met. When the family of Michael Greenwood (the fellow who had been killed in that auto accident) heard about Williams' daughter and granddaughter, they bought the two some plane tickets.
The Greenwood family forgave Williams enough to fly his family in from the state of Washington. That forgiveness provided a tear-filled reunion the day before he was executed. I wonder if I had been that family would I have done the same?
ITEM 2 - Before he died, Kenneth Williams gave an interview. In that interview he spoke of his present mindset. You should hear part of what he said:
"I have been stabilized and sustained by the inner peace and forgiveness I've received through a relationship with Jesus Christ ... God has transformed me, and even the worst of us can be reformed and renewed. Revealing these truths meant more to me than being granted clemency. I'm still going to eventually die someday, but to stand up for God in front of man, that's my victory."
You know, I believe it is a wondrous thing -- a beautiful thing -- that the Michael Greenwood family forgave Williams and gave him a chance to say an earthly farewell to his family.
But it is a miraculous thing to see that our perfect Lord can forgive us. Think about it.
When Jesus hung on the cross, He was carrying the sins of an Arkansas murderer who would not be born for another 19 centuries. When Jesus died, he erased the curse of these murders, which had not yet been committed.
Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus made it possible for the Holy Spirit to call to repentance and salvation a criminal living his last days on death row.
Through Jesus' sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit's handiwork, God transformed and saved Williams. That is why when Williams breathed his last the Lord took that saved soul home -- just as He will do for other once-condemned sinners like you and me.
THE PRAYER: "Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me; Died that I might live on high, Lived that I might never die, As the branch is to the vine, I am His, and He is mine. O my Savior, help afford By Thy Spirit and Thy Word! When my wayward heart would stray, Keep me in the narrow way; Grace in time of need supply While I live and when I die." In Jesus' Name. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal 342, verses 1, 5)
The story upon which this Daily Devotion is based was written by Jim Denison for the Denison forum on April 28, 2017. The website where the parent article can be found is here
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries