So profound was the depth of Moore's transformation, however, that people began to take notice. Mother Teresa and others started campaigning to save his life. "Billy's not what he was then," said a former inmate who had met Moore in prison. "If you kill him today, you're killing a body, but a body with a different mind. It would be like executing the wrong man."5
Praising him for not only being rehabilitated but also being "an agent of the rehabilitation of others," an editorial in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution declared: "In the eyes of many, he is a saintly figure."6
Just hours prior to Moore's being strapped into the electric chair, shortly before Moore's head and right calf would be shaved so that the lethal electrodes could be attached, the courts surprised nearly everyone by issuing a temporary halt to his execution.
Even more amazingly, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole later voted unanimously to spare his life by commuting his sentence to life in prison. But what was really astounding-in fact, unprecedented in modern Georgia history-was when the Parole and Pardon Board decided that Moore, an admitted and once-condemned armed robber and murderer, should go free. On November 8, 1991, he was released.
As I sat with Moore in his home overlooking a landscape of lush pine trees, I asked him about the source of his amazing metamorphosis.
"It was the prison rehabilitation system that did it, right?" I asked.
Moore laughed. "No, it wasn't that," he replied.
"Then it was a self-help program or having a positive mental attitude," I suggested.
He shook his head emphatically. "No, not that, either."
"Prozac? Transcendental Meditation? Psychological counseling?"
"Come on, Lee," he said. "You know it wasn't any of those."
He was right. I knew the real reason. I just wanted to hear him say it. "Then what was responsible for the transformation of Billy Moore?" I asked.
"Plain and simple, it was Jesus Christ," he declared adamantly. "He changed me in ways I could never have changed on my own. He gave me a reason to live. He helped me do the right thing. He gave me a heart for others. He saved my soul."
That's the power of faith to change a human life. "Therefore," wrote the apostle Paul, "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Billy Moore the Christian is not the same as Billy Moore the killer. God had intervened with his forgiveness, with his mercy, with his power, with the abiding presence of his Spirit. That same kind of transforming grace is available to everyone who acts on the ample evidence for Jesus Christ by making the decision to turn away from their sin and embrace him as their forgiver and leader.
It's awaiting all those who say yes to God and his ways.
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