Saturday, May 16, 2015

Compassion, Justice, and the Death Penalty

 I value life…. and I support the death penalty. To many this may seem like an oxymoron. How can you value life and support someone being put to death?

I find it ironic in our society how the very people who are strongly against the death penalty are often the same people who are in support of abortion. Talk about an oxymoron. They value life (they say) but if it’s an unborn baby it doesn’t count. They want the guilty murderer to live and let the innocent child die. Show a little humanity, they argue. But what about the humanity that was thoughtlessly killed? No, if you truly value life you will value the life that is taken, you will value innocence and condemn the guilty. This is how the death penalty actually values life and takes it seriously… it values the life that was murderously taken. Someone might argue should we not value all life regardless of what they’ve done? Certainly, that is why we do need to have compassion and love for the murderer. But what about justice for the one murdered? For their family who lost a loved one? Should not true and just punishment be given? For justice to be true justice, the punishment must fit the crime.

The death penalty is a principle that pre-dates even the Mosaic law. Genesis 9:6 says, "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.” (Gen 9:6). The fact that man is made in the image of God makes murder a crime worthy of equal punishment. You take the life of an image-bearer, you forfeit your own life. In the Mosaic law itself it is written, “Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death.” (Num 35:31) In other words, when it comes to murder there should be no parole, no second chance, no opportunity for you to “make it up” some other way. And before the current century when people were sentenced to death they were taken straight outside and executed immediately. Today that punishment is delayed and sometimes doesn’t end up happening at all. But delayed punishment is not true justice. We need to accept the fact that for crime there is punishment, and that the punishment ought to 1) fit the crime, and 2) be immediate.

Certainly there are exceptions. Moses murdered. David murdered. Neither of them were put to death. But then, God is also a God of grace and the fact that He chose to give these two murders grace is something to praise Him for. He gives grace when we don’t deserve it! In the case of Moses and David, they both suffered as a result of their sin. Both came to realize the depths of what they had done and repented of it. David wrote a whole poem about how God convicted him of his sin (see Psalm 51). The Gospel sets us free from the spiritual consequence of sin, but the physical/temporal consequences we will still experience to some degree. Because God granted some exceptions does that mean that the death penalty should no longer be given? No. We are not under God’s direct rule. For the sake of morality and for the good of our society just punishment needs to be given out to those who do wrong. Now, I certainly agree that the justice system in our country is greatly flawed in many ways. But where the justice department is seeking to uphold justice than we ought to support it.

I love people, even those who murder. I have compassion on those whose circumstances, genetics, families have helped to mold them into a criminal. But they still made choices. Pray for them I will, but because I value the lives they wrongly took I will uphold the death penalty. I take life seriously, and so should you. 

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