Jesus loves children.
For a moment, imagine a child, a small little kid. Do you have that child in mind? Perhaps you have or had a little child. Can you see his or her face? Now, that child is taken and held hostage. The child is being tortured. The child is crying, unsure what’s going on and why it’s happening. The fear and terror. And in just a matter of time, the child is brutally murdered. The memories of birth, first birthdays, the holidays, the play dates, the rough housing, the hopes and dreams…gone. A sick monster satisfied its wicked craving by taking the life of a child.
I wondered how Jesus would respond. Not in regards to the loss of a child, but to the murderer. Because children were very precious to him, and the monstrosity of the act, I suspect Jesus would call for a swift death to every person who murders a child. Some might disagree with me. “Jesus is love. He’s compassionate, and merciful, and forgiving. He would never condone killing another person.” But, are we so sure that having those “good and positive” attributes equates to denouncing capital punishment? Does love oppose justice?
When Jesus was entering Jerusalem on a donkey, there were shouts of praise. The people who were shouting these praises were kids. The kids loved Jesus.
When the disciples were preventing children from going to Jesus one day, he rebuked them. He said, “let the children come to me!” The kids were precious to him. If the disciples were reprimanded just for holding the kids back from Jesus, imagine what he would’ve want done if the kids were hurt, or murdered. Jesus told his disciples that if anyone prevents a child from knowing him – his love, his blessings, his care – it’d be best for them to tie a large millstone around their neck and thrown into the depths of the sea. Ponder on that for a moment. Not sharing the love of Jesus to a child could be a sentence for death? Or, in other words, delivering acts of hate to a child equals a brutal death penalty?
Old Testament – Commanded
In the Old Testament, God commanded a swift sentence of death for murderers. Before the Law, God stated that those guilty of intentional or premeditated murder were to be executed (see Ex 21:12-14; Nu 35:16-32). Murdering someone was taking a precious life from God. Taking an innocent life from God demands justice.
Some might wonder about the commandment that says “you should not kill”. The correct translation is “murder”. There is a difference. Recent revisions of the Bible actually uses “murder” instead of “kill”. From this difference alone, here’s what we can quickly conclude: 1) killing is an act, it does not define the basis or reason for the act. 2) Murder is the act of killing another under the conditions specifically covered by law, such as killing with malice, premeditation, and intent. 3) Capital punishment is the act of killing one out of justice by the state.
In the Old Testament, there were 21 acts which could result in the death penalty. However, in Numbers 35:31 reveals that in the 21 cases that required the death penalty, there were ways around it. Many times people were not executed for various crimes the Law said they should receive. But when it came to premeditated, first-degree murder, there were to be no bargaining whatsoever.
In the surrounding cultures in the Near East, if one murdered another, the murderer could pay a fine for a lessor penalty. And so people were allowed to commit crimes knowing that they would not be penalized in the same way. For God, this was an injustice. So God wanted his people to act counter-culturally, to pursue justice and equity. God instituted and commanded the death penalty to show justice.
New Testament – Affirmed
Some might by tempted to dismiss the commandments or views of the death penalty in the Old Testament because we don’t live under the Law anymore. We may not live under those Old Covenant statutes and regulations, but if it is carried over to the new, then it is something we must continue to hold as true. Yes? Otherwise, if not, we should then not have an Old Testament in our Bibles. The Old Testaments scriptures would be useless. But, this can’t be the case. Jesus stated that he didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. In other words, Jesus didn’t come to overturn his father’s orders, but to affirm it.
Before the control of Rome, Jews continued to believe in the instructions of God about capital punishment for murderers, however, their executions (pun intended?) were becoming rare. It became more of theory and not practice. God’s justice as provided in Scripture made up their doctrinal statement, but it was never applied in real life. In addition, their view of justice was perverted by elevating life over it. They believed that all life was sacred of which mislead them to believe that all life then must be saved from death, including capital punishment. This view distorted their view of God and man and evil and justice. Their view overturned God’s word because they concluded that their view was more ethical and just. So, even though the religious community knew the scriptures, and that it required the death penalty for first-degree murderers, they chose instead to allow the convicted murderers to live.
In Matthew 15, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for following their tradition over scripture. Jesus tells them that the Law states “whoever dishonors their parents should die.” But the Pharisees’ tradition allowed for such conduct. It is because of their liberal view of scripture people were allowed to do what God had prohibited them from doing. This angered Jesus. It angered him because Jesus was pro-Law – pro scriptures – and the religious leaders were reinterpreting it within the grid of their humanistic and progressive ethics.
When Rome took over the Jewish state, capital punishment was transferred from the Jews to the Romans. Now, in the Roman state, not all people were treated equally. The citizens of Rome were not sentenced to death if they murdered someone of equal status. Instead, they were often fined or exiled. But, if they murdered someone who was not of equal status, they could then be executed by beheading, of which was regarded as honorable. The Justice system had gone from non-practice in the Jewish hands to unequal practice in Roman Law. Either way, in both Jewish practice and Roman law, the justice system was an unjust system.
Many have viewed Jesus’ forgiveness of the woman who committed adultery as his way of showing condemnation against the death penalty. But, is this really so? First, I’d like to say that this story is not only out of context but it is not found in the original manuscripts. This by itself should make this passage baseless at denouncing the death penalty. But for many Christian who hold this story as true and relevant for condemning the use of capital punishment, here we go. 1) Instead of denouncing “capital punishment”, Jesus was rather judging the prosecutors for their acts of injustice. Before a person could receive the penalty of death for a crime, it was required that there be two witnesses to the crime (Deut. 17:6 & 19:15). However, there was not. 2) The Law states (Lev 20:10 and Deut 22:22-24) that the woman and the man must be put to death. But, the man was not brought forth on charges of adultery. And, 3) it cannot be forgotten that the Jewish people had no authority to execute the death penalty since it was transferred to Roman state. So in this story, Jesus could not condone the death sentence of the woman since it fell out the rule of Jewish Law, and it went beyond the jurisdiction of the accusers, since only Rome could execute. In summary, this passage carries no basis to prevent one from carrying out capital punishment as long as it is lawful and just.
Jesus, in his stance for justice, did not oppose capital punishment. There is no parable given or statement made by Jesus found anywhere in scripture that shows he denounced capital punishment. Actually, quite contrarily, he spoke about heavy punishments in his stories, acknowledged the penalty of death for various crimes, and even spoke about experiencing a second death in the afterlife. Jesus supported the death penalty.
In one parable Jesus gave, known as The Weeds, he talks about how the wheat and the weeds growing together. And at harvest time, the servant of the field will separate the weeds from the wheat. Once they’ve bundled all the weeds together, they will be thrown into the fire. Jesus explains to his disciples that at the end of the age, workers of evil will be gathered by angels, and he will order that they be thrown into fire.
Jesus doesn’t just affirm the Law and affirm the death penalty. For the unrepentant, he will make sure they experience hell in the afterlife. Every ungodly person will receive the just wrath of God and experience torture for a duration of time. To the murderers of children, I can only imagine hearing Jesus say on Judgment Day as he’s seated on his Great White Throne, “tie a large millstone around the neck of each murderer and throw them into the depths of the sea of black fire”.
Justice Needed in Our System
The cultural context of both Old Covenant and New Covenant had an unjust justice system. When someone murdered another, it was possible to keep them from experiencing a just penalty. And, unfortunately, there is no difference today. As for the church, we must hold truth to what God commanded and what Jesus affirmed. We cannot conform to the ideals and views of secular culture. It may seem more redemptive. But it is not. It distorts the justice of God when law-makers chooses to house and feed a murderer instead of executing justice. The world may think they are being compassionate when they allow criminals to receive less than what they should get, but instead they are being unjust and hateful towards those the criminals harmed. We should act counter-culturally because we act on behalf of true Justice.
In the way of Justice, we must request that murderers receive the penalty.
In John’s Revelation, an angel proclaims:
“You are just, O Holy One, who are and were,
for you have judged these things;
because they shed the blood of saints and prophets,
you have given them blood to drink.
It is what they deserve!”
The death penalty is one way, approved and ordered by God, to carry out justice and show the holiness of God. Life in prison is not a more just and compassionate way of dealing with a murderer. They still have life and the person they murdered is still dead. That’s not justice. They are being housed, fed, and receive health care. And society pays for it, including those who were affected by it. The sad reality in an unjust system is that the affected parties are contributing by their tax dollars to care – shelter, food, health – for every single murderer in their jurisdiction.
If the system is unjust, and the church can influence change, then influence change they must. If a person or persons intentionally kills, especially a child, and is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, that person or persons must incur the just penalty, that is immediate death. This is what we should advocate. Anything less is a crime against the murdered and society.
It is important that the process of conviction and the death penalty occurs speedily. If not, then it goes to show how the government doesn’t take these crimes serious enough to call for justice. It turns the justice system into a mockery. And it hurts the people most affected by the crime. When a government chooses not to enact the death penalty, they are essentially saying to all future murderers, “you can kill, because we won’t kill you”. Rather than preventing these acts, it allows it all the more. The fear of government and the penalty it’s supposed to uphold fades. No capital punishment, no justice, no fear, no deterrence. King Solomon recognized this truth in Ecclesiastes 8:11: “Because sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the human heart is fully set to do evil.”
We should give the opportunity for each murderer on trial to repent. It is important, since it’s our mission, that, before receiving the death penalty, the murderer should be presented with the gospel of Jesus. If they are receptive, they must repent and ask God for forgiveness of the sin they committed. However, repentance, no matter how great they are sorry and how remorseful they are, does not restore a murderer back into society. Rather, it gives them a chance to restore their soul to God. Repentance may not prevent a murderer from receiving the just penalty in this life, but it will prevent them from receiving the second death sentence in the afterlife. Isaiah 26:10 and Proverbs 19:19 imply that wicked people deserve to be punished to the fullest extent allowed, and should not be set free because they might do it again. Repentance is restoration to Christ, not community.
We, the church, should pray for such souls that they understand the horror of their crime, that the spirit will convict them, and that this would help deter similar crimes in our nation. Through the speedy trial and even up to that fateful moment, we should beg that murderers acknowledge their wrong, confess that Jesus is King and Judge, and believe in the hope that Jesus can restore. Let’s not forbid someone, even a murderer of a little child, from hearing about the gospel and repenting. So then that dying as a repentant sinner becomes their contribution to society, and that their deed may be a symbolic act of redemption. Life for life, so that they may have life in the afterlife. It is their life they must hand over to God. It is their newfound duty to die as an act of justice. It’s a benefit to society in that the murderer will absolutely never have the opportunity nor temptation to ever murder again, and acts as a deterrent for others who might commit the same horrific act. It is to their honor that they recognize their evil horror and pay the price of death. And it is to their hope, that in the next life, instead of entering destruction, they will experience redemption and eternal life.
So this is why I now support the death penalty:
- Deters crime
- Saves tax-payers money
- Creates a better society
I hope that you now see what I see, and that if you weren’t in support of the death penalty, that you would now. Thinking that Jesus would not support it can no longer be your basis. Stand with Jesus and his Father; stand for Justice.
We need to care for those who can’t care for themselves. And we must speak for those whose voice we will no longer hear. And we must fight for those who lost the fight for survival. The best way to create a safer world is by deterring crime. And the best way to deter this kind of crime is by a speedy trial and a swift execution.
- Appropriate Execution – Don’t take it upon yourself to execute justice. Give it to God. Let the government take charge. Call for a speedy trial, and a swift execution of the penalty.
- Demand Justice – A Christian who stands for justice will demand the death penalty for a child murderer. Advocate that the laws in your state enact capital punishment.
- Call to Repentance – Pray that the murderer repents, acknowledge their horrific, sinful acts, and makes amends with our Maker.
- Keep Watch – Wherever you are, keep an eye out for any possible criminal activity against children.