“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord — who is the Spirit — makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into his glorious image.” 2 Corinthians 3:18.
I’ve had the privilege of interviewing many fascinating people during my years as a radio host. Ken Cooper’s story is one I won’t forget.
By all impressions, Ken was the kind of guy you’d want living next door: a loving husband and father, a respected community leader, and a role model for underprivileged children. But this mild-mannered neighbour had a dark side — Ken moonlighted as one of Florida’s most wanted criminals.
Ken began shoplifting as a child, was stealing cars by the time he reached college, and turned to robbing banks when his wife died early from cancer. “My robberies had nothing to do with money,” he told me. “The purpose was to feel alive — to defy this dead, depressed state I was in from losing my wife.”
Ken’s 13-year double life ended when he was shot during a bank robbery and sentenced to 99 years in The Rock, Florida’s infamous prison. With just five guards controlling nine hundred inmates, The Rock was a hellhole of knifings, beatings, murders, and rape. But while there, Ken heard about Jesus from a prison chaplain and soon became a Christian. Some of Ken’s cell mates did, too. And their lives began to change.
One day, Ken and his friends adopted a kitten, who they named Mr. Magoo. Mr. Magoo’s back had been broken for fun by other inmates, and he was blind from acid they’d thrown in his face. Ken and his friends held Mr. Magoo each day, took turns feeding him, even prayed for his sight to return. Mr. Magoo was lavished with love. And his sight did return! Other miracles began to happen, too. Rape rates began to decrease at The Rock and prison guards began asking Ken and his fellow Christians for prayer. But perhaps nothing signifies the change in the prisoners’ lives better than their kind treatment of Mr. Magoo.
The justice system could sentence Ken and his cell mates for their behaviour, but it couldn’t change their desires. As the apostle Paul says, while civil and religious laws are good and have their place, they can only help restrain evil at best, or at worst condemn us when we break them (Romans 7:7–12; 13:1–5). Laws can’t change our hearts.
In contrast Jesus, by his Spirit, offers inner change. He doesn’t just forgive us, he transforms us — restoring our souls to make us “more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Jesus restores the image of God in us that got distorted through sin, making us people of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control instead (Galatians 5:22–23).
Jesus will have a lot to say about ethical living as his sermon continues. We’ll come to grief trying to live out his instructions unless we realise he’s there to empower us from within. On this, Ken Cooper would concur.
For here is the invitation that turns hardened criminals into kitten-protecting gentlemen.
This article is taken from Sheridan’s sixth book Resilient: Your Invitation to a Jesus-Shaped Life which was released last month,