Death Penalty and the Christian (and An Ironic Twist)

There is a great deal of controversy and debate over the death penalty/capital punishment.  Many well-meaning Christians point to the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross to pay for our sins.  They look to scripture that clearly says that we all deserve death for our sins.  Unfortunately, while scripture does say that the “wages of sin is death”, the death is an eternal death, separated from God in Hell and the Lake of Fire.  We all will indeed die one day.

Others point to the Old Testament Law and its clear demands for death in a wide variety of crimes.

So what should our attitude be towards the death penalty?  Did Jesus’ death somehow eliminate the “need” for capital punishment?  I submit that the Death Penalty is not just morally correct, but is biblical.  Further, the death penalty, applied liberally is not a violation of the US Constitution’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment” (8th Amendment).

In Genesis 9:6 we read “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

It would seem obvious that human life is extremely important to God!  Why?  Because we are made in His image.  God’s word clearly identifies murder as grounds for being put to death.  If one were to read further, God even made provision to spare the lives of those who shed blood by accident or through what we might define as “justifiable” circumstances by today’s terms.

Scripture also squarely places the authority to wield the sword in the hands of the government.  Even if we have a hard time seeing where “good” comes from our governments, God has ordained and empowered governments.

At no point has God removed or changed His mind regarding murder.  Some point to Jesus and His intervention when the woman “caught in adultery” was going to be stoned to death.  What most fail to realize, is that Jesus’ statement “Let him who is without sin among you<span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(H)”>be the first to throw a stone at her” John 8:7, was not an undoing of the Law, but was a conviction of the hearts of the men who were, in reality, testing Jesus.  They had hoped Jesus would argue against the law, but instead the Law was turned back on them – because of the hypocrisy they were demonstrating.  Where was the man involved?  It takes two to commit physical adultery!  Jesus was not condemning the death penalty, He was condemning hypocrisy.

But that brings us back to the death penally, applied through the laws of this nation and our states.  

The Old Testament law commanded the death penalty for several acts, including murder (Exodus 21:12), kidnapping (Exodus 21:16), bestiality (Exodus 22:19), adultery (Leviticus 20:10), homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13), prostitution and rape (Deuteronomy 22:24), and other crimes.

While God often did show mercy when death was the “due” (David’s adultery and murder being one example), and the truth that every sin we commit should result in the death penalty because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), ultimately the death due for sin is an eternal death, separated from God in an eternal Hell and Lake of Fire. This should remind us of how thankful we should be that God demonstrates His love for us in not condemning us (Romans 5:8).

But we must recognize that God gave the authority to apply the death penalty where appropriate.  And while Christians should not celebrate executions, we should not rail against it either.

This brings up one of the biggest ironies of all in my mind (or maybe it is hypocrisy?):  How many people are staunchly against the application of the death penalty, yet are just as energetic in promoting abortion.  Will we protect the blatantly guilty, while destroying the unborn who are the closest to “innocent” we ever are in this flesh?

Think about it.

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