When Hatred Turned Into Love
Billy Rivers was a bitter man. He hated everything and everybody. He was one big tattoo, and his only friend was his motorcycle!
By the time he was seventeen all Billy wanted was his motorcycle and a needle full of heroin or cocaine. As a youngster he had gone to church, but at a young age his imagination was captured by the “exciting” way of life of a biker. Instead of Jesus he chose a life of drugs and stealing. He became a member of a notorious motorcycle gang and thought he was on “top of the world”; but the newness started to wear off. His body craved the drugs which ruled his life, and he had to resort to illegal acts to support his habit.
Always in trouble, he eventually became involved in transporting illegal immigrants from Juarez in Mexico to Colorado. One day the Border Patrol in El Paso tracked the suspicious van he was driving. It was registered in the name of a member of the notorious One Percenter Motorcycle Club. The Patrol suspected that in the van were drugs or guns, but had no idea that people were being transported. Their orders were to set up an ambush and shoot out the tires of the van.
When the shooting started, Billy jumped over the seats into the rear of the van to act as a shield for two young children. Instead of killing Billy, the gunshots killed the children. For many years Billy woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and would still see their blood on his clothing.
Billy was charged with two counts of manslaughter, illegal transport, and other charges that added up to a total sentence of 165 years. When the court realized that he had not been directly responsible for the deaths of the children, his time in a federal penitentiary was reduced to eight years. He did his time in Carson City, Nevada, and then was returned to Mississippi to serve another three years for a previous charge there.
When Christian ministers came to the prison Billy would go to listen just to get out of his cell. He told one visitor, “If I can’t see Him [Jesus] and touch Him and talk to Him you’re never going to make me believe He’s real.” About eight months before he was to be released from prison the Bill Glass Prison Ministry conducted a “Weekend of Champions” event. They brought in riders from the Christian Motorcyclists Association, along with their bikes. This organization is interdenominational and evangelistic in nature. On this one occasion God worked it out so that Billy was one of the three hundred men chosen to be able to come out in the prison yard and participate in the event.
While he was admiring the bikes, Billy noticed one of the motorcyclists staring at him. Billy put on his “biker bravado” and confronted the man. The CMA member from Alabama, Don Johnson, looked him in the eye and said, “Mister, Jesus Christ has spoken to me about you alone and none of the other 299 men out here. I have a message from Jesus and I would appreciate it if you would just be quiet and listen to me.” He had Billy’s attention as he told him about God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. The Holy Spirit convicted Billy that day, and he chose to follow Jesus.
God took all the evil Billy had done and forgave him for all he had done. A new Billy began to emerge. As his day of release from prison approached, Billy received a letter from another CMA biker, John Capatano. In the letter John had written “I don’t know you, but I love you.” That really struck Billy as he had never heard this heart-felt sentiment before from anyone. He continued to receive letters of encouragement from Capatano. As the release date neared, John even sent him money to buy new clothes. The only thing Capatano asked was that Billy would accept the money as an expression of God’s love. He wanted Billy to know first-hand that God loved and cared for him.
It wasn’t long after his release from prison that Billy attended a meeting of the Christian Motorcycle Association chapter in Gulfport, Mississippi. There he humbly admitted what he had done in the past. Their welcoming spirit and love was a great encouragement to him, and it gave a new purpose to his life. He admits he is still “a work in progress” and values the Holy Spirit’s guidance in his life. Billy resides now in Louisiana and serves as an officer of a local CMA chapter.
The Bible says anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The old life is gone and a new life has begun! Billy says the Lord used the Bible verse 2 Corinthians 5:17 to show him he’s not the same man anymore. Jesus owns him. “You are mine. I have you under My wings. I love you. I forgive you of everything you’ve ever done. Old things are passed away and behold, all things are become new.”
“Lord, that’s me”, says Billy.
In one of GOD’S OTHER WAYS©, which we often cannot understand, God loves us no matter what we have done. Billy Rivers life transformation is an example of the extent of God’s Love and His desire for all to come to Him.