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I am always amazed to see how many wonderful Christians are perfectly fine giving the state legal authority to put people to death. Many proponents of the capital punishment see it as an OT Law mandate; although in other matters, like the Forth Commandment for example, they passionately argue that we are no longer bound by any OT legal code. We find comfort in the fact that Moses was guided by God and if capital punishment was good enough for Moses, it should be good enough for us also. Nevertheless, several extremely important distinctions between Moses’ Torah and our contemporaneous times should be made. First, Moses was in constant communication with God; he was literally walking and talking with God. Second, Torah was given under totally different circumstances than our modern times. Third, today many legislators and justice system administrators are lacking the moral authority and God’s guidance that Moses enjoyed. If we are to take Torah to heart and demand OT justice, then we should also consider applying the capital punishment for disrespecting a parent, blasphemy, making false statements about a woman's virginity, adultery, working on Sabbath, etc. Those insisting on NT justice might want to consider that there are no specific teachings about capital punishment in the NT. OT capital punishment is secondary to Jesus' message of love and redemption. Both reward and punishment are seen as taking place in the judgment day, rather than in this life. Our present justice system is totally inadequate and ill prepared to dispense a just and objective punishment. Many capital murder trials are plagued with false testimonies, dishonest prosecutors, coerced confessions, mistaken identities and technicalities that have nothing to do with guilt or innocence. Since 1973 alone, over 150 people sentenced to death were exonerated based on DNA evidence. In many instances, the poor and mentally handicapped, unable to afford a proper legal defense, were disproportionately convicted in capital punishment cases. That should give pause to every sincere Christian who agrees with the way the capital punishment is being administrated today in our nation. Maimonides, a 12th-century Jewish legal scholar stated that "It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death."
First, we should start off with the New Testament, because:"But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises." Heb 8:6. How often does it say that those who give mercy will receive mercy: Mt 5:7, Luke 10:37, and Ja 2:13 just to name a few. How often does Christ contradict the Old Agreement, not when it comes to morality on our part, but when it comes to returning evil for evil? Does the New Agreement differentiate between sins? Of course not! You know the answer to this question. Sometimes the sins we think are not abominable are abominable to the Lord. Scripture says "that which is lofty among men is disgusting to God." Leave death and judgement to the only one capable of justly administering it. Punish, yes, but don't demonstrate murder is wrong by murdering in return.
The Ten Commandments...Thou shall not kill. Simple as that. For most of my life I have gone back and forth on the death penalty. Now I believe that since God didn't destroy satan during the fallout in heaven, and satan being God's best creation in all the universe, God has complete dominion over life and death of all human beings and animals. If God allows a person to live then there must be a reason. God allows good people to die, even when we don't understand why. So I believe, let God decide whether a person should live or die. We have prisons for the most evil wicked people of our time and just as satan will someday be locked up forever, so shall we lock up our most evil humans.
Genesis 8:20-21: And Noah builded an altar unto Yehovah; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And Yehovah smelled a sweet savour; and Yehovah said in His heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for THE IMAGINATION OF MAN'S HEART IS EVIL FROM HIS YOUTH; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. Genesis 9:6 Whosoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man. So we see that from God's perspective "the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth and as a result if that evil results in murder to the taking of another man's/woman's life, by man [civil authority] shall that murderer's life be shed. Here we see that after the flood God has established human government to restrain what He sees as "the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth". So the death penalty/capital punishment is sanctioned from the scriptures and there is nothing in the N.T. that states that provision for the state - civil authority to shed the blood of a man/woman who takes the life of another human being has changed or been abrogated. Under the old covenant which instituted a provision for those who killed someone by accident and not by pre-meditation there were cities of refuge set up where such a person could flee to and be safe from anyone wanting to take revenge against them for what we would describe as manslaughter. Usually a family member of the person killed would be the avenger. If the man/woman left the protection of the city of refuge they were open to being killed by a revengeful relative. So, even now, at this present time, God has given the state - civil authority the right to execute a person who has killed another human being in a premeditated act or an act of passion. It may be added that the relatives of the person killed had the duty to throw the first stone at the person who had murdered their relative. At the present time, in my opinion, the state should allow the relatives of the person killed to decide whether they want the murderer to have his/her life taken by the state - civil authority. What is surprising is that in most cases the relatives today would choose to have the person spend the rest of their life in prison, according to the opinion polls made on this subject.
The death penalty of the Bible was by stoning. Joshua 7 tells of the execution of Achan and his sons and daughters for Achan's theft of the "things devoted to God" from the spoils of the invasion of Ai. All Israel is said to have participated in the stoning and burning of Achan and his family. That was the way the executions were conducted; the population had to carry out the punishment. It's one thing to allow a government agency to carry out executions, but the Bible is clear; the every-day person had to throw stones at the guilty parties. How many among us who claim to support this kind of barbarism can actually follow the directive of the scriptures and participate in the horrendous execution of a family? If you can you can. I can't. The same people who are obedient enough to stone someone to death are not obedient enough to follow the command to "love one another." Ain't that strange?
We seem to carry everything too far one way or the other. We either want to punish every one for the slightest infractions of the law with no compassion at all, or let sin reign and let everyone do what is right in their own eyes. We have to remember, Romans 3:23: For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, All, not some, but all. Romans 3:10: There is none righteous, no not one. We are all guilty sinners under Gods laws and deserve to go to hell. But, God took the punishment for the sins of he whole world, so that any one who believed He did it for them would receive the free gift of eternal life. Those who have believed can never be condemned to hell again. John 3:18. But we still reap what we sow and God does chasten His children. God is a righteous judge. He knows the intents of the heart and we do not. If God punished us for every little thing we do, and we got what we really deserve, no one would be saved. But God in his mercy does not execute judgment except for the most horrible crimes. And the book of Romans gives a list of those things God hates. At the same time, He paid the penalty for all sin, so that any one who would believe on Him, He would give eternal life as a free gift, because no one can pay their own sin debt. But, we still reap what we sow on earth, and God does judge his people. In the book of Corinthians there were born again believers coming to communion drunk. There were those still going to prostitutes. Paul said there are some sick among you for your sin. He did not judge them for drinking, and said, do you not have your own houses to drink in? But He did judge them for drunkenness. So, we have to keep things in balance. If we go too far one way, and judge everyone for every little thing they do, then God will judge us according to our own standard. Legalism is against the grace of God. The Pharisees were the legalists of their day and condemned everyone else a sinner but themselves. But Jesus showed them they were just as bad as everyone else and had broken everyone of His laws. So, do we execute a man for steeling a loaf of bread to feed his family? No. But do we let rapist and child molesters go free? If we do God will judge us because we have not executed His judgement. God holds all things in the balance, and knows the thoughts and intents of the heart. We do not. Do we not have the right to protect our selves and our family? Yes. So, whether you are for the death penalty or not, I believe God is in some cases. God has forgiven us all trespasses, but we still reap what we sow.
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