LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP)–If Jesus sat down with convicted terrorist Timothy McVeigh, what would the Lord say?
Bible teacher and author Lee Strobel said he believes Jesus would have a message of hope for the man convicted of murdering 168 people in the April 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building.
McVeigh is scheduled to be executed May 16.
“I can imagine Jesus uttering these words to one of the most undeserving human beings ever to hear them,” Strobel said during worship services at Saddleback Valley Community Church April 29. “‘Tim,’ Jesus might say, ‘You need to know that even for someone like you, I am the God of hope.'”
Strobel is a teaching pastor at the Lake Forest, Calif., church and author of such books as “What Jesus Would Say” and “The Case for Christ.”
Jesus likely would offer three kinds of hope to McVeigh, Strobel told the 15,000 Saddleback attendees.
First, there’s the hope of forgiveness, Strobel said, acknowledging that many people may find it difficult to stomach God forgiving a terrorist responsible for so many murders. Yet Strobel noted the words of Psalms 86:5: “You are kind and forgiving, O Lord, abounding in love to all of those who call to you.”
No sin is too big for God to forgive, Strobel said. Rather than minimizing McVeigh’s depravity, he said the forgiveness of Jesus would show the depth of his grace.
Second, there’s the hope of a transformed life. To illustrate how Jesus could change McVeigh’s short life, Strobel told the story of Rusty Womer, a convicted killer who accepted Christ before his execution. Womer, who became a powerful witness for Jesus on death row, came to Christ while in prison through the efforts of a former South Carolina deputy governor, Bob McAlister.
On one occasion after he became a Christian, Womer convinced an unmarried, pregnant girl not to abort her baby and instead to let him be a surrogate father to the young child. Considering the man was in prison because of his apparent disregard for human life, Strobel found this action reflective of how God had changed this man’s heart.
“I think Jesus would say to Timothy McVeigh, ‘I can even transform your attitudes,'” Strobel said. “I think Jesus would say, ‘I can even soften your hardened heart. I can change your character and your priorities. I can even cause your life to make a difference if you give it unreservedly to me.’ Think about that. He only has two weeks left to live but what if God were to change his life as he changed Rusty Womer’s.”
Finally, there’s the hope for peace, with Jesus offering the Oklahoma City bomber a peace that passes all understanding, Strobel said. Peace likely is elusive for McVeigh, but he isn’t alone in having difficulty finding such peace, Strobel said, citing a recent study that revealed only 30 percent of all Americans experience peace in their lives.
The full text of Strobel’s remarks on McVeigh are available at www.pastors.com.