In today’s news, a UN-assisted genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh is hearing testimony from Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch (pronounced Doik). Between 1.2 and 2 million people died under the rule of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia from 1975-1979. Duch, who is now a born-again Christian, admits to being “criminally responsible” for the deaths of 16,000 men, women, and children at the infamous Tuol Sleng Prison (S-21).
I created this poster after a visit to the Cheoung Ek Killing Field and S-21 on a family vacation last summer. The skulls are from the Cheoung Ek Killing Field where 8,900 men, women and children were executed by the Khmer Rouge. The faces are actual prisoner photos from S-21 in Phnom Penh. The skulls at Cheoung Ek remind us that these were real men, women, and children. The faces at Tuol Sleng tell the story of their suffering.
In the face of such horror I am rendered nearly speechless by the depravity of man. While we sometimes like to think of man’s inherent goodness, we need not look very far back in our history to recognize the evil that is possible within the heart of man. No, mankind is not inherently good. He is inherently evil, which makes our need of a Savior and the promise of redemption that much more amazing.
I realized not long ago the extent to which we take the salvation of our souls for granted. All too often we fail to recognize the amazing miracle of grace and the tremendous cost that God Himself incurred for the redemption of our souls and the restoration of our relationship to Him. “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” In a society that has resorted to praising mediocrity for fear of damaging self-esteem, personal wretchedness is rarely a topic of discussion. Yet, without the recognition of our wretchedness, there can be no forgiveness.
The Apostle Paul recognized the dilemma of his wretchedness. In Romans 7:24 he wrote, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
He answered his own question in the very next verse. “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
It is only through a relationship with Jesus Christ and not through our own efforts that we can be forgiven for the evil that lurks within us all. Most amazing is that even the most depraved among us is not beyond the reach of God’s love.
So, what’s so amazing about grace? Just ask Duch. I think he understands.