Left to right: Mary Ann Jordan, Kathy Emmons and Ellen Harnish

It’s been 51 years since Richard Speck murdered eight student nurses after he broke into the dormitory of South Chicago Community Hospital on a hot summer night in 1966.

Speck was a stoner and a loser from Dallas, Texas, who was staying with relatives in Chicago in July, 1966 when he decided to commit a burglary after a long night of drugs and drinking. The residence he chose was a townhouse located on 100th Street in Chicago’s Jeffery Manor neighborhood, which was functioning at the time as a dormitory for student nurses.

After Speck broke into the townhouse, he encountered the nursing students and he changed his plans. He proceeded to torture, rape and murder eight young women one by one before he finally called it a night. He was later caught when one nurse, who managed to escape Speck’s attention by hiding under a bed, identified Speck to the police.

Speck was subsequently tried and convicted of the murders, and he was given the death penalty. However, his sentence was later changed to 400 to 1,200 years in prison when the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the death sentence due to a technicality.

It seems that 250 potential jurors were unconstitutionally excluded from Speck’s jury because of their conscientious or religious beliefs against capital punishment. Because of that technicality, Speck, who deserved to die for his crimes, was given the mercy he refused to offer his helpless victims. Speck eventually died in prison on December 5, 1991, just a day before his 50th birthday.

Unless he repented of his heinous crimes and truly confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, Speck is burning in hell where he belongs. Judging by his behavior during his 25 years behind bars, it’s highly unlikely that Speck ever had a change of heart. He got into trouble frequently during his prison life and he showed little remorse for the promising young lives he snuffed out on a hot summer night in 1966.

Many well-meaning folks will excoriate me for my opinion concerning Speck and his eternal punishment. Aren’t Christians supposed to be all about God’s love and forgiveness? Of course. Then why the unforgiving attitude toward Speck, and other mass murderers?

It’s not an unforgiving attitude. I truly hope that all mass murderers and violent criminals repent and confess Christ as Lord because if they don’t, their punishment in an earthly prison will pale in comparison to the punishment that awaits them in hell.

And there’s also a distinct difference between God’s grace and mercy, and His punishment. In the ancient times, King David, who’s considered one of the greatest human kings who ever lived, and “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22) committed adultery and murder when he impregnated another man’s wife and subsequently had the man killed to keep him from finding out. (2 Samuel 11)

Certainly, David realized his sins and repented. Though God forgave him, David was severely punished for his transgressions: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.” (2 Samuel 12:11-12)

The Lord also struck down the son born to David and Bathsheba–the woman David committed adultery with–seven days after he was born. David later married Bathsheba and they had another son Solomon who was considered one of the wisest men on earth and built the first Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

And so, what are the lessons to be learned from the terrible tragedy that occurred in Chicago 50 years ago? First of all, fear God and shun evil. Otherwise, you’ll live outside of God’s hedge of protection and something terrible could happen to you.

Is that casting judgment upon those student nurses? Absolutely not. Only God has the authority to judge human hearts. But realize that bad things often happen to sinful, rebellious people. If you’re living in any sort of sin from fornication to adultery to idolatry etc., then don’t be surprised if you encounter misfortune.

Hopefully, you’ll escape with your life and repent before it’s too late. Had Richard Speck confessed his sins to Christ and accepted Him as his Lord, he would’ve escaped eternal damnation. Even for the horrible crimes he committed. Here’s a lesson that Christ taught on the subject:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)

The second lesson from that tragedy teaches us that part of God’s grace and mercy is His discipline. Unless we truly understand that we’re accountable to God for our actions, we’ll go astray and fall back into sin. No Christian is beyond that possibility:

God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:10-11)

Those are the lessons we can learn from a horrible tragedy that happened a long time ago in a different time.

From Chicago, Illinois, United States, Roy is a Jew who became a Born-Again Christian in 1979. “Jesus Christ is the reason for my life, existence, happiness and worldview. There is no greater honor in life than serving the Jewish Messiah Jesus Christ. He is the reason for my being.” ~ Roy Weinberg

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