At small group last night, a college aged young man asked,
“If God says, ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ then is capital punishment an appropriate consequence for a crime? I means as Christians, should we support executing perpetrators of heinous crimes?” (not exact words, but close)
The verses prompting this question originate in the book of Genesis. Genesis 9:5-6 says,
“From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”
Obviously these verses reference the consequence of one taking another’s life through the crime of murder. But his question sparked a discussion, his viewpoint valid. He asked,
“What if our government executed an individual that God wanted to save?”
Interesting question. We all agreed that Jesus died for criminals, even the most hardened individuals on death row. If a serial killer turns to Christ, his sins will be forgiven. Case in point, Jeffrey Dahmer. Then we addressed the issue of having enough time to repent. Though I didn’t cite any statistics, I reminded the group, criminals on death row are sometimes awaiting execution for several years. According to the Death Penalty Information Center,
Death row inmates in the U.S. typically spend over a decade awaiting execution. Some prisoners have been on death row for well over 20 years.
The Bible shares,
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. II Peter 3:9
This verse reminds us that God wants no one to be separated from Him for eternity and that He is patient with us. Patience hints at giving people ample time to consider their sin nature and the need of a Redeemer. A prisoner on death row has plenty of time to mull over his past choices and render a decision on accepting God’s forgiveness and unmerited grace.
So, we know the Old Testament affirms capital punishment. Is the New Testament quiet about this topic? No. Romans 13:1-5 shares,
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
So, according to the Bible should Dzhokhar Tsarnaev get the death penalty? Absolutely.
Should we pray that he sees the error of His ways and comes to faith in Christ before he either dies in prison or sits in the electric chair? Absolutely.
I Peter 3:18 says,
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God..”
The key words here being the “righteous for the unrighteous.” The sinless Son of God, perfect in every way, served as our sacrificial Lamb. The righteous laid down His life for thieves, adulterers, gossips, murderers, rapists, swindlers, conservatives, and yes, even liberals.
Oh, and for terrorists too.