Two Stories: "Tom" and "Karla"

Earle Fox

Festo Kivengere, an African Anglican bishop back in the 1970's, told of a fellow, whom we will call Tom.  Tom lived in a village.  He was large brute of a man, both physically and personally.  He was habitually drunk, regularly abused his wife, and caused the police endless trouble.  It would take four or five of them to subdue him in his drunken sprees of rage and destruction.

One day, as Tom was walking down the street of his village, he passed an evangelist on the street corner.  Tom stopped to listen and in the process was converted.  He accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.  His life changed almost immediately and totally.  He went home and apologised to his wife for his abusive behavior, asked her forgiveness, and began treating her with dignity and respect.  But she, in her resentment and anger, did not believe Tom.  She became abusive to him, and would regularly beat him with her fists and sticks.  Tom just sat and took it all.  He understood that he deserved it, and he never retaliated.  Then one day the Lord spoke to Tom's wife.  "The old Tom is dead.  You are beating on Me now."  


Just a week or so ago, Karla Faye Tucker was executed for a horrible drug-crazed pickaxe murder which she and a friend had committed many years ago.  She had been in jail over those years and in that time had accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.  

As I followed the news of her appeal for commutation of her death sentence on the grounds that she had repented of her crime and was indeed a new woman in Christ, supported by the testimony of all who knew her, and the subsequent denial of that mercy, I could not avoid returning in my imagination to the scene of the execution.  One article, entitled "Death with Dignity", described how she had indicated her readiness to pay for her crime, to meet Jesus, and that she hoped to meet those people present there in heaven as well.  Her smile never left her face, said the article.  

The Lord kept bringing me back to that scene.  I wondered what I would have done if I had been one of the official witnesses.  I found myself getting on my knees to accompany a sister in Christ through her death, at first sorrowfully and then joyfully.  I wanted to sing, "Swing low, sweet chariot....  If you get there before I do.....  Tell all my friends that I'm comin' too."

But then the Lord pushed me further and asked what I would have said in her place.   I had to struggle with letting go of myself and my life to imagine the possibility of being with Him strapped in an execution chair.  But He seemed to put words in my mouth to those present.  

I have never been on drugs, nor have I killed anybody.  But it was quite easy to be in her place, under, and in need of, the mercy of Jesus.  As the scene worked itself out in my imagination, it was not always clear whether it was I or Karla speaking.  I was strapped in the execution seat, but it was she speaking.  So perhaps she will forgive me if I put my, or perhaps the Lord's, words in her mouth.

Karla Faye Tucker spoke softly and slowly, with radience and beauty: "Our Lord Jesus has given me the ability to lay down my life and to take it up again.  The old Karla has already died, and you may bury her.  My horrible memories have been healed.  The blood on my hands has been washed away by His blood.  And He will do the same for you, if you will let Him."  

I, of course, do not know all of her inner thoughts, but of all the people at that moment in that execution chamber, Karla Faye Tucker may have been the person who could most safely have been released to society, or, in such a case, at least her life spared.  The Texas legal system puts people in penitentiaries, but does not understand the meaning of penitence, and therefore cannot understand the meaning of forgiveness.  I think they were beating on Jesus.

Karla, it would appear, was a witness and a martyr in the deepest sense of the word.  She died with a dignity surpassing Texas' legal understanding, and God was glorified once again in the death of His saints.

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