He was ultimately described as “the meanest man in Texas” (a nickname given by an official in the Texas State Prison System). His name was Clyde Thompson, and his life of violent crime began with the shooting deaths of two young men in West Texas in 1928. For the better part of the next three decades, Clyde’s life was spent miserably in one Texas State Prison after another (including a portion on Death Row). During his time behind bars, he killed two other men: one, a guard during an attempted escape; another, an inmate who made the mistake of threatening Clyde’s life.
Amazingly, during the last twenty or so years of his life, this man, once described as the “meanest man in Texas” served as the superintendent of a children’s home in New Mexico, a chaplain and prison minister to hundreds and hundreds of inmates within the same prison system by which he had himself been imprisoned for many years.
How did this happen? Well, what happened was that by the remarkable providence of God, Clyde’s life was spared again and again – even from execution – until something amazing happened. Finally, this hardened, cynical, hate-filled man began, out of sheer boredom, to read the Bible. He was not reading it to search for truth, but because it was the only thing he could get to read. He was not reading for spiritual guidance, but rather to find evidence that the Bible was not trustworthy and that Christianity was a farce. Instead of finding myths and falsehoods, however, Clyde found truths and realities which he could not deny. Ultimately he found life-changing grace and faith in relationship with the Son of God.
Clyde’s story reminds us of another very mean man, a man who in his day was likely regarded by Christians as “the meanest man in Palestine.” His name was Saul, and when we are first introduced to him in biblical history, his delight in life was destroying the lives of Christians. The latter part of his life was also spent in quite different fashion: writing half of the New Testament and traveling all over the northern Mediterranean world spreading the faith he had once despised and planting the church he had once sought to destroy. *
What happened in the lives of these two “mean men” that changed them completely? They were both converted to Christ!
Their HEARTS were changed by placing their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God (see Acts 9:1-6; 16:30-31).
The DIRECTION of their lives was changed in godly sorrow and repentance (see Acts 9:8-17; 2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
The FOUNDATION of their lives was changed by confessing Jesus Christ (see Romans 10:9-10).
The STATE of their lives was changed from lost to saved, from condemnation to justification, when they were baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins (see Acts 22:12-16; 2:38).
Saul, whose name was changed to Paul, gives hope to ALL of us who have sinned (and that is ALL of us, Romans 3:23), saying,
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).
If Jesus can save “the meanest of the mean,” He can save US, too.
You, too, can be saved – and even used by God to make a positive, eternal difference in the lives of others by living and sharing the saving message of Jesus – IF – you will trust and obey Christ
— Marshall Underwood and David A. Sargent (church of Christ at Creekwood)