This is about Comrade Duch, a Cambodian man who died today. I thought of this story when I read his obituary, which barely talked about the fact that he'd become a Christian. Lee Strobel covered it in depth in his book "The Case for Grace," and this is from an interview with Jim Daly of Focus on the Family:
Kaing Khek Ieu didn’t deserve God’s grace.
In the mid-1990s, he was a teacher living in Cambodia when he was invited by a friend to attend a Christian leadership training event held by Christopher LaPel, a pastor living in Los Angeles but born in Cambodia.
In the midst of the services, Kaing Khek Ieu approached LaPel and said, “I don’t have any hope. I’ve done too many horrible things. God can’t forgive me.”
Christopher had never met the man, but assured him that no one is beyond hope. “God will forgive you,” LaPel told him. “God will show you His grace.”
Kaing Khek Ieu was later baptized, and his life radically changed. His students said he smiled for the first time any of them could remember. He also established a house church with 14 other families and volunteered with Christian relief organizations. It was as if Mother Teresa had moved into the jungles of Cambodia.
But the biggest indicator of his transformation, people say, was his decision to accept full responsibility for his past.
That began when Kaing Khek Ieu confessed to his true identity.
Years before he had been known by another name: Comrade Duch. He had been a lead figure in the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and served as Pol Pot’s chief executioner. He was responsible for murdering nearly 17,000 people. As it turns out, one of the people he murdered was a young woman and science teacher – pastor LaPel’s cousin.
Comrade Duch now sits in a Cambodian prison where he will remain for the rest of his life for the crimes he committed while part of the Khmer Rouge. One of the few people allowed to visit, Christopher LaPel serves him communion, sings hymns with him, and prays with him. The genocidal killer named Duch now spends his time sharing Jesus with the guards and the other prisoners.
No, Kaing Khek Ieu didn’t deserve God’s grace. And neither do we. But that’s exactly what grace is all about, isn’t it?
Grace is defined as God’s undeserved favor, mercy, and good will toward us. But I don’t think simple definitions like that help us understand the depths of God’s grace in the same way as stories like Comrade Duch’s.