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DavidBerkowitzIf you’re over 40, you might get a chill as I resurrect a shadowy name from the 1970s: Son of Sam.

This was the nickname David Berkowitz gave himself as he terrorized New York City, killing six people and wounding seven in 1976-77. In prison since then, he claimed during his trial that he was under the influence of a demon who possessed his neighbour’s dog.

Berkowitz was in the news not too long ago, responding to a 2011 Fox News reporter’s inquiry to reveal he would no longer seek parole because his Christian faith has already made him free.

“I am not saying this jokingly,” he wrote. “Jesus Christ has already forgiven and pardoned me, and I believe this. He has given me a whole new life, which I do not deserve. I am forever grateful for such forgiveness.”

Before you begin protesting, Berkowitz has expressed remorse for his crimes, dating back to 2007 when he issued an apology on his website. He expressed remorse again in his Fox News letter, writing “I have deep regret and sorrow over my past criminal actions.”

But that’s not the point of this essay. The point is more controversial. Has the Son of Sam been forgiven by Jesus Christ? Has he been given “a whole new life”?

The answer, if Berkowitz is sincere, is YES. If he came to believe that Jesus died to pay for his crimes, and as a result asked for the forgiveness Jesus made available to every person on this planet, then YES. If he’s committed himself to following Jesus, then YES.

Isn’t this outrageous? That’s the scandal of God’s grace (unmerited favour) through Jesus. It isn’t just available to you and I for those times we exceeded the speed limit or lied to our supervisors or paid for some service under the table. It’s available for everything. For everyone, including the Son of Sam.

Our culture may not consider this a good thing. But it is. In fact, I regard this grace as one of the things that most separates Christianity from other faiths. And it is based on a complete lack of what some cultures call a “caste” system that ranks people’s value.

When Paul, one of the earliest Christian missionaries, wrote in the Bible that “all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory,” he didn’t include a footnote that singled out some people or groups as having sinned more (or less). That statement is the great equalizer for all humanity. See? No caste system.

So, if you’re carrying around something that pesters you like a persistent backache, do what David Berkowitz has done: place your trust in Jesus, ask for forgiveness with complete sincerity, then receive it. And believe it, because that forgiveness is as real and enduring as death, taxes, and annoying reality TV shows.

Even if you’re not burdened with guilt, give some consideration to this Christian faith that goes beyond our wavering ability to forgive. It provides permanent grace, an extraordinary gift to a broken world.

What do you think? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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