I think most people who have lived long enough have regrets. For most of us, hopefully, they are about the small things, but for some they are not.
There is a sadness that settles on the soul that regrets. Grace can absolve and forgive, but in the deepest recesses of the heart, the person knows what they've done.
Like a body heals from an injury, but a scar remains, the soul remembers. It's a scar that reminds a person of the grace that has been offered and received, but it also reminds a person of the ongoing need of grace.
I recently met a man who knows this well. We sat in a little church in Cambodia with other members of our mission team. His story evidenced the scars of a life that knows the grace of forgiveness. We were there to hear about this grace and about our continual need for it.
The church was a simple building on a dirt road. Every time I meet Christians in other parts of the world it's the same. In America we like to get down to business quickly—to cut to the chase. But in other cultures that would be deemed rude. So things take longer, and we're better for it.
A scarred soul needs "breathing room" to tell its story. We often miss the stories because we don't give the time. We want what we want and we want it now. But this is not the land of drive-thru's and microwaves. This is a place where a scarred soul can breathe.
In 1975 Pol Pot led the bloody Khmer Rouge. He was a murderous thug and killed millions of people. He forced many men and boys into his army to kill his enemies. To resist was essentially siding with the enemy, and that meant death for you and your family.
Some who fought for Pol Pot fought to save themselves and their families. But fighting in the Khmer Rouge also meant killing—in some cases your own countrymen. Such was the case for Sukah, the man sitting before us in this little cement church on a dirt road in Southeast Asia.
Sukah had done unspeakable things. He'd killed men, women and children.
"Many of the people we killed were Christians," he said. "We always looked forward to getting their Bibles because the pages were thin and good for rolling our cigarettes."
After killing Pol Pot's enemies, they would gather the Bibles, rip the pages out, roll their cigarettes, and enjoy a relaxing smoke. That killing can come so easy and without remorse is an awful window into the human heart.
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But during this killing spree an amazing thing happened: Sukah began reading portions of the pages he ripped out of Bibles. Moreover, even though Sukah knew what he was doing was in part to save his family, he also began to realize what he'd done was evil and wrong. So evil, he thought, that even if there was a God, he could never be forgiven; he could never be clean again.
One day as he got ready to roll a cigarette using a page from a Bible that had belonged to a man he'd killed, he stopped to read the words from Isaiah 1:18: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
Scarlet ... Red ... Rouge ... Khmer Rouge. Crimson like the blood he'd spilled, like the blood on his hands.
At that moment Sukah knew that even after all he'd done, God could still love him; he could be clean again. Even Sukah could be redeemed.
As Sukah told us his story tears were streaming down his cheeks. Even in the hands of killers the Bible makes a difference around the world.
The next time we read Isaiah 1:18 perhaps we'll pause for a moment and let those words breathe and remember the grace offered to us in that text. This is no cheap grace. Our sins are worthy of death and deserving of the wrath of an infinitely holy God. But this is a grace greater than all our sin.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
Brighter than snow you may be today.
Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.
God's grace is able to save the worst killer, to pardon and cleanse even a man like Sukah. This is what we learned from one scarred soul in a little cement church on a dirt road in Southeast Asia.
Scott Wilder is host of "The Scott Wilder Show," recognized by the National Religious Broadcasters as Talk Show Host of the Year in 2004. His program is heard weekday afternoons in Dallas/Ft. Worth on The WORD 100.7FM. Contact Scott at [email protected]. To join Scott sending Bibles to people around the world, go to www.wildershow.com/sendbibles.