Rediscovering Redemption

Chronicling the work of Redemption in the lives of Followers and Leaders. Articles, research and meditations from the writings of Dr. Joseph J. Bucci. Get blog updates by following Joe on Twitter @Re_Redemption

Joseph J. Bucci

From Ruthless to Remorseful: an Opportunity for Redemption

This article was shared with me by a friend. An incredible story of repentance and redemption’s transformative work. While there is no evidence that I could find of a spiritual transformation, the individual at the center of this horror has admitted his guilt and lives with shame ( This is something that the ultimate redemption through Christ would completely remove.

Dr. James Merritt posted this today: ““And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh…” Ezekiel 11:10

It was racially divided South Africa in the 1980s where a white man named Eugene de Kock commanded a secret government unit and was charged with killing, kidnapping, and torturing anti-apartheid activists. During activist Nelson Mandela’s rise, and under the white, racist government, de Kock masterminded a kill squad that increased black-on-black violence and used Russian weapons to implicate black South Africans in the crimes. Behind the scenes, he created chaos, promoted racism, and reinforced the white ruling class’ notion that there would be no lasting peace if South African blacks were ever free to live as full citizens.

Then came South Africa’s transition to democracy in 1994. It was a wholesale change of power, and with it came the inevitable war crimes trials. Mr. de Kock disclosed the full scope of his torture and murder to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. His human rights violations were heinous. He gave testimony that helped put many other racist criminals in prison and was given amnesty for many of his crimes. But so evil was de Kock that he was still convicted of 89 charges and given two life sentences plus 212 years in prison. Eugene de Kock, whose nickname was “Prime Evil,” represented everything wrong with white South Africa. In the interest of rebuilding the nation, many of his fellow murderers confessed and were forgiven. De Kock, though, would be the face of punishment for decades of racist evil and would be locked away for good.

But then something happened. Using his intimate knowledge of past leaders and missions, de Kock began helping victims of apartheid find their loved ones, literally giving information on where bodies were buried. He confessed regret to his victims and admitted nothing would redeem him. He actually began to engage with fellow South Africans in restorative ways. Slowly, over nearly two decades, he transformed himself from a killer to someone who genuinely was helping to find answers and build bridges between black and white South Africans. He wrote apology letters to the families of people he had assassinated. He expressed remorse in countless interviews. Many doubted his sincerity and several families would not forgive him. But others did and believed that de Kock had changed. Was he a psychopath that was just playing at repentance, or was something else going on?

After 20 years in prison, the unthinkable was offered. De Kock was given parole. A guerrilla, a fanatic, a terrorist, was being freed 300 years short of his sentence. Both black and white South Africans were enraged. But there was also an ethical dilemma. De Kock had embraced change as a criminal where many free whites had not changed at all. Prejudice was alive and well in South Africa decades after

Apartheid was struck down. The original goal of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that had convicted de Kock was to build a new society through change. They wanted to transform from a people divided to a people who cared for one another. Their unlikely poster child was a former murderer who appeared to have truly repented.

De Kock is still alive, in a state of permanent parole, out of jail but still in custody to some degree, and for the most part hidden. Victims’ families want him dead, government officials want him dead, and South Africa, in general, wants him dead. In 2017 he was kicked out of a nursing home after staff found out who he was and feared for their lives. But the question remains, can a person like de Kock really change?

The Apostle Paul murdered Christians in the early church. Then after his conversion, he became the greatest theologian of all time, penning half of the New Testament. Moses, too, was a murderer, who God later chose to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt. Zacchaeus, a tax collector who would make Bernie Madoff look like Mr. Rogers, met Jesus and was transformed. In the Bible, we see men who had committed truly evil acts were changed by their encounter with and a relationship with God. Ezekiel speaks of a new heart in the life of a truly changed man…the heart of stone removed and a living, beating, heart of flesh in its place. This is the picture of a person who is alive in Christ.

In our culture, in our world, if change will truly happen, it will be by a change of heart. Fascism, racism, dictatorships, poverty, hate, pride—all of these evils that confront us will only end if we see men truly repent and be changed through the power and blood of Christ.

God, thank You for creating a new heart in me through my relationship with Jesus. Before Jesus, I was dead in my sin, a stone sinking to the bottom. But now I am alive in You, and the attitudes, actions, and lifestyle I had before You are no longer my desire or aim. Help me to live each day for You and thank You that I have a spiritual heart that is alive and beats for You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Joseph J. Bucci

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