will spend life in prison.
But note what Gardner says: he is an animal, he is the sort who should remain in prison for life, if released he would kill again, and he hopes he is himself killed during his term. That or he may kill himself.
Hunh. That's different.
It's different in that you don't usually seem to see killers so bluntly condemning themselves and their actions, and you certainly don't see them hoping to be put to death. I think of brutal murderess Karla Faye Tucker, who after conviction and sentencing to death made a credible profession of faith in Christ — and then began seeking to elude justice (seconded by Pat Robertson).
None of that for Gardner, and that's different.
Well, is it "different"? Not in the sense we've never heard anything like it.
Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." They said, "What is that to us? See to it yourself." And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)Horrible reading, and it's always puzzled me. The human psyche is a far scarier place than the "World's Scariest Places" lists we see each Halloween, and none scarier than Judas'.
In this narrative, Judas actually is more exercised about his sin than many professed Christians I've seen, over the decades. Think about it: Judas doesn't even need to be confronted. Judas sees his guilt, himself; he admits it, unprompted; he admits it specifically and publicly — and he even returns the fruits of his sin, rather than clinging to them and cherishing them...yet he is a hopelessly lost soul (John 17:12).
Christians, in dealing with themselves, often fall short even of this in dealing with their sin, savage anyone trying to point them to Christ and His Word, yet call it "repentance" and call it good enough.
So... how does Judas do all that, and it falls short of genuine saving repentance? I want to know... and I don't want to know.
Yet in the words I've seen quoted, Gardner doesn't once locate his guilt specifically before God, and he doesn't deal with God on God's terms for it. It could even be an act — the words, the tears, everything.
But it is important to know that there is in Christ redemption and forgiveness and salvation even for such a one as John Gardner III. If Gardner comes to Christ, the Lord will not cast him out (John 6:37); if Gardner calls on the name of the Lord, he will be saved (Romans 10:13); if Gardner believes in Jesus, he will be counted righteous in God's eyes (Romans 3:21-28).
But at this point, Gardner's doing none of that.
Pray for John Gardner. Though he may cast light on Judas now, we have no dominical word telling us that he is without hope. Perhaps, unlike Judas, he will come to know God's forgiving grace.
Postscript: how one reacts to the above is revealing. In court, family members express hope or certainty that Gardner will burn in Hell forever. I know that many professed Christians would shrink back from my call to pray for this man, to hope for his redemption. Were he to profess Christ, many would be reluctant to believe his profession, almost hoping it to be false.
Further, many skeptics would mock at the whole thing. "So if this rapist/murderer just believes in Jesus, he'll go to Heaven and walk the golden streets, but if I live a moral life and don't agree with your religion, I'll burn in Hell?" The premise is that (selected) crimes against mankind are far, far worse than crimes against God.
So you see, this is yet another precise place where our inborn skewed priorities show themselves. We all choose our points of comparison very carefully and very wrongly, and end up not seeing just how desperately, how badly, we ourselves need the Gospel of pure grace through Christ alone, received by faith alone.
Is your Gospel that big? Does it reach that low?
You and I had better hope so.
Food for Christ-centered, Cross-centered reflection and self-examination.