NYC Police are breathing a sigh of relief. One of the City’s worst offenders – and “most fearsome killers” – is dead…
A Double Life
…But it’s not that the police were afraid of him. To them it’s more of a feeling that justice has finally caught up with him – though far later than they hoped. You see, this man, John “Sonny” Franzese, was the oldest living inmate of the Federal Penitentiary System. He recently died at the age of 103. Yet his was a long life poorly lived.
Sonny Franzese was the second in command of the notorious Colombo crime family. Born in Naples, Italy, the youngest of nineteen children, Sonny grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He worked in his father’s bakery when he wasn’t involved in street fights. Though the Army drafted him in 1942, he was soon discharged for his “homicidal tendencies.” He returned to his brawling ways and became a boxer. His ruthlessness brought him to the attention of the Mafia, where he quickly rose through the ranks. He boasted of killing fifty people, without ever facing conviction for a single murder. Though he spent time in prison, it was only for lesser offenses and he was paroled numerous times. But he never used his freedom for anything good. Right up through his late nineties, Franzese was committing crimes.
Like many mobsters, Sonny lived a double life. Firstly, to his wife he was a caring husband. Secondly, to his children he was a loving father. And thirdly, To his friends, which included Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr., he was a great guy. But to the rest of humanity he was diabolical murderer. His son, Michael, who renounced the Mafia at the risk of his life, called his father a Chameleon – loving to a few but horrible to the rest.
What lesson can possibly be drawn from his life? One could say that his example shows there’s no honor in extreme longevity if that life is poorly lived. Sonny Franzese’s long life was a crime against humanity. Jesus said, “…to whom much is given much will be required” (Luke 12:48). So Sonny’s in deep trouble.
Sonny’s life is also a caution to the kind-hearted members of humanity. They need to understand that their kindness and mercy will be wasted on some people – the remorseless, the sociopaths, and the psychopaths. An ocean of mercy can be poured into their lives and they will only use it as an opportunity to do more evil. God can certainly testify to this. He shows mercy to millions – intending to bring them to repentance. But His mercy is wasted by the majority of humankind (Romans 2:4).
There’s another lesson from Sonny Franzese’s life. Have you ever been disturbed by Jesus’ words about Judas Iscariot, “…it would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24)? Well, a review of Sonny’s long life of crime and murder will demonstrate to us that the world would have been better without him. Such horrific lives as Sonny’s serve to justify God’s curse upon humanity. It’s good that the wicked don’t live indefinitely, lest their evil continues.
The Curse of a Chameleon
And, if you haven’t noticed it, Sonny Franzese’s life presents us with a theological problem. I’m speaking about his chameleon-nature, the fact that he was loving and kind to a few, but sadistic and cruel the rest. Why is this a problem? It’s only a problem to those who say that God behaves in a similar way.
Think about it. Sonny’s family only knew him as a loving husband, father, and grandfather. Yet he boasted of murdering fifty people. No thinking and feeling human being should try to reconcile these contradictions. They are irreconcilable. Sonny’s love for his family did not make him a loving person when he so heartlessly murdered others. His love was perverse. Perhaps he looked at his children as extensions of himself and his wife as a possession.
All Are Welcome
Yet some people think of God in these terms – that He loves a chosen few but hates the vast majority of humanity and condemns them mercilessly to hell. But the Scripture assures us in no uncertain terms that God loves the whole of humanity. “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). And God’s love was not only expressed by providing rain, warmth, and bountiful harvests. God’s love is redeeming love. “…God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Some Christians will actually roll their eyes in contempt whenever these words of Jesus are cited. This is because it challenges their view that the “Elect” constitute an exclusive club whose membership is closely guarded. But God’s word clearly tells us that the church of Jesus Christ is not an exclusive club.
Paul told us that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Peter said that God is “…not willing that anyone should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God told the prophet Ezekiel, “…As I live, says the LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked – but rather that the wicked turn from his evil way and lives…” (Ezekiel 33:11). Jesus described His mission in these terms: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save those who are lost” (i.e. the whole of humanity, Luke 19:10).
No, the church is not an exclusive club consisting only of God’s favorites. For Peter tells us that God has no favorites (Acts 10:34-35), as does Paul (Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6; Ephesians 6:9). Jesus said, “…there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). If God favors anyone, then it’s the lost sinner rather than the saint.
If our theology makes us roll our eyes at those Bible verses which speaks of God’s love and provision of salvation for all people, then something is seriously wrong with our theology – and our hearts. For our hearts are out of tune with God’s heart and our theology is out of sync with the Bible.
Listen, my friend. If you’ve ever doubted God’s love for you, if you’re convinced that you’re one of God’s rejects, if you fear that God has assigned you to play the part of a villain in life – born only to do wrong and be punished for it, then I have good news for you. God loves sinners. Jesus came to save sinners. In fact, Jesus said that, as the Great Physician, He has no interest helping those who are healthy, but only those who are sick, i.e. the sinful (Matthew 9:12-13).
Like Pharaoh of Egypt, God has raised us all up to bring glory to His name. We cannot resist this purpose (Romans 9:17-19). We can glorify God willingly, as did King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:47; 4:1-3, 34-37) and King Darius (Daniel 6:25-27) – and be saved. Or, like Pharaoh, we can harden our hearts, try to resist God, and eventually bring glory to Him when He judges us (Exodus 3:19; 8:15, 32; 9:34; 14:4). Either way, God will be glorified through us. But we choose to do it willingly and partake of His salvation. Or, we choose to do it under compulsion and be lost.
Dear Father in heaven, please soften and melt my hardened heart. Please open my blind eyes. Please reveal Jesus Your holy Son to me that I may see, believe, and receive Him into my heart and be saved. Save me, O God, for Jesus’ sake, I pray. Amen.
(Information from: https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/offbeat/mobster-who-was-oldest-federal-inmate-dies-aged-103/ar-BB10n3XI)