He’s one of the most notorious men in recent history. When Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon outside the Dakota apartment building on a cold December evening in Manhattan in 1980, his name was added to a list of infamy: Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, Sihran Sihran, John Hinckley.
Chapman is currently serving a life sentence for second degree murder at the Wende Correctional Facility outside of Buffalo. He has been considered for—and denied—parole eight separate times since 2000.
For over 37 years, Pastor Ken Babbington has been ministering to prisoners across the nation. On a recent interview with Faith Radio, Babbington discussed his interactions with Chapman, and how the Holy Spirit is having an impact on him.
“When it all started, he wanted to be famous,” Babbington said, reflecting on his early interactions with Chapman. “Instead he is infamous.”
Babbington recalled meeting with Chapman in 1995. At the time, Chapman was convinced he was going to die, and told Boddington, “You know, if I’m going to die, I might as well get to know Jesus.”
Boddington says it was at that time that Chapman’s life began to change. Today, Chapman and his wife run a prison ministry, producing materials for other inmates who might want to “get to know Jesus” themselves.
For many, it is a struggle to believe the sincerity of professions of faith from men, like Chapman, who have committed unspeakable crimes. There is a tendency to think of such conversions as self-serving, and of forgiveness as unwarranted.
Such, however, is mercy. If forgiveness is earned, then it has no power, and is emptied of its meaning. Should some warrant God’s forgiveness above others, it is not truly forgiveness, but merit. And the required level of righteousness is far beyond what any of us can ever hope to obtain. For this Christ came, that, though we have all turned astray, He may bear the iniquities of us all, and imbue us with His righteousness.
As we reflect on Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection this Holy Week, we would do well to do so with a humble recognition of our own unworthiness. Through our own sin, we are all complicit in Christ’s death, and needful of His forgiveness.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift.” This is true for the most infamous of sinners—and even for us. Lord, have mercy!