Thursday, October 2, 2014

Christians and the Death Penalty

"[T]he kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.' And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." (Matt. 18:23-35).

If we take Jesus' parable seriously, we should receive the lesson that if we have been shown grace and forgiveness of our wrongs, we should not turn around and insist on retribution and punishment of the wrongs of others. Yet many confessing Christians who claim to believe that their sins have been forgiven by God in His infinite mercy, tend to be some of the most vengeful, violent, punitive people on earth when it comes to dealing with the sins of others. What sense does this make?

To put a finer point on it, if I believe that I was properly subject to the death penalty for breaking God's laws, and that I was spared only by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus, how can I possibly support the death penalty? How can I, as a redeemed sinner, support an institution that cuts against the concept of redemption? If I have been spared, what right to I have to support another person being condemned?

However, Tennessee, a state in which you cannot throw a rock without hitting a church building, stubbornly clings to the death penalty. It seems that quite a few self-professed Christian politicians and citizens have not given much consideration to the implications of some of the most basic tenets of their faith. According to the Man himself, a condemned person who has been showed mercy is in a poor position to insist on harsh punishment for another condemned person. If the story Christians claim to believe has any relevance in today's world, it is to the death penalty debate. God himself was executed for the sake of all people. Henceforth, no one need pay for their sins with their life because the debt has been forgiven. It is time for our practice to harmonize with our beliefs.

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