Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
As Christians we often refer to one another as ‘brother’ or ‘sister’, if I were to tell you that one of the most notorious serial killers of our time was now someone we ought to refer to as ‘brother’ would that bother you?
For many, it does. It bothers them that someone who killed and dismembered people is now calling himself a Christian. It bothers them that this killer was also convicted of cannibalism and now that he has accepted Jesus as his savior and repented of those sins he will not face eternal damnation. It bothers many a Christian that Jeffrey Dahmer’s sins were not too much for Jesus.
A minister from Wisconsin named Roy Ratcliffe got a call from the prison holding Dahmer back in 1994 asking him if he’d be willing to baptize an inmate. The minister said he would and much to his surprise the inmate who made the request was none other than Jeffrey Dahmer.
Roy performed the baptism! The murderer repented! Ratcliffe and Dahmer continued to meet weekly after this and according to Roy, the baptism was real, Dahmer’s faith is genuine.
Ratcliffe says that the question he gets most often concerning Dahmer is whether or not the baptism ‘took’. Is his conversion sincere. The question doesn’t surprise Ratcliffe, but what does surprise him is that many of the people that ask that question don’t seem to like the answer of “YES! Dahmer repented!” Seems they would prefer the answer of “no, Jeffrey is going to hell” as if the blood of Jesus was somehow too weak to cover the sins of this man.
Near the end of one visit at the prison Dahmer expressed to Ratcliffe his feelings of sorrow for the crimes he committed. This is what he said, and how Ratcliffe responded. This happened as the guard signaled that their time was up.
“I feel very, very bad about the crimes I’ve committed. In fact, I think I should have been put to death by the state for what I did.”
“I agree with you,” I said. “You should have been put to death by the state for the crimes you committed.”
He replied, “If that is true, am I sinning against God by continuing to live?”
“Boy, you sure picked a time to bring this up,” I answered. “We can’t go into all this now, but I can see where you are going.” I asked him to read the first half of Romans 13 (13:1-7) before my next visit. “That passage relates to your question,” I said.
No one is outside of the reach of Jesus! There are no sins that He can’t forgive, His blood is sufficient, His resurrection was for all, not just a few and not just for those who committed sins less severe than Dahmer’s.
I know it’s hard to wrap your head around the idea of a man like Dahmer being forgiven after the horrible things he’s done. God’s grace though knows no bounds! There is no limit to His love and He wants all to come to Him and confess and accept the gift that Jesus bought.
What helps me understand Dahmer’s situation better is the transformation of a man named Saul. We know him better as the Apostle Paul because we don’t like to think of what crimes against God he may have committed prior to this transformation, but the truth is that Saul and Dahmer have a lot in common. They both committed unspeakable crimes against humanity, they both were forced to face their transgressions head on, and they both ended up following the Lord Jesus.
Another example comes from the passage of Scripture I started with. We all know that Jesus was crucified between two known criminals, various translations of the Bible call them rebels, revolutionaries, and thieves but the big idea is that these two broke the law in more ways than one, hence their hanging on a cross. These two crooks were headed straight for hell, as the crowds walked by and hurled insults at Jesus the two rebels also insulted Him until one of them had a spontaneous conversion. This is what he said to his two cross bearing companions.
We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
And just like that Jesus says that today this rebel, who moments ago laughed and scoffed at Jesus would now be invited into Heaven with Jesus!
The man who mocked the Son of God was going to heaven, for no other reason than the fact that He confessed that Jesus was who He said He was. I’m sure many could’ve looked at that last minute conversion and questioned the sincerity of it, but Jesus knew the man’s heart and granted him eternal life based on that one short conversation.
The people who knew that rebel before the cross, like the people who have heard about Dahmer before prison would say there’s no way that guy repented and changed his ways, he is far too evil. Yet, Jesus accepts their pleas for forgiveness based on the fact that the plea is genuine and the cross was enough.
The thief who mocked Jesus, Saul before he became the Apostle Paul and even Jeffrey Dahmer have more than one thing in common but most importantly, they have in common the fact that Jesus died for them, Jesus was buried for them, and Jesus rose for them. And that means for Christians worldwide we have in common with Jeffrey Dahmer the love of Jesus! We have in common the fact that we were once rebels in the eyes of the Lord and it was Jesus’ blood that saved us, not our own actions for no matter how good we think we are, we’d be heading for hell. It was Jesus, and Jesus alone who chose whom He would die for, and that’s everyone.
All you have to do is accept it.