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Convict’s Confession

Historian and art critic Robert Hughes tells of a convict sentenced to life imprisonment on a maximum-security island off the coast of Australia. One day, with no provocation he turned on a fellow prisoner and beat him senseless. Authorities shipped the murderer back to the mainland to stand trial, whereupon he gave a straightforward, passionless account of the crime. He showed no sign of remorse and denied having held any grudge against the victim. “Why, then?” asked the bewildered judge. “What was your motive?” The prisoner replied that he was sick of life on the island, a notoriously brutal place, and saw no reason to keep on living. “Yes, yes, I understand all that,” said the judge. “I can see why you might drown yourself in the ocean. But murder? Why murder?” “Well, I figure it’s like this,” said the prisoner. “I’m a Catholic. If I commit suicide I’ll go straight to hell. But if I murder I can come back here to Sydney and confess to a priest before my execution. That way, God will forgive me.”

Phillip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace, Zondervan, 1977, p. 177