Tonight I arrived home after a long day of discipling men. The best way for me to summarize my experience is found in Jeremiah 15:16: “Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.” (NKJV) There is something truly magnetic about God’s Word and I count it pure joy to open the Scriptures with men and learn from the Lord together.
Sitting across the table from me tonight was one gentleman who said, “You know Dale, you ought to attempt to answer the challenging questions I hear every day from my ‘not-yet-Christian’ friends.”
I am discovering that the men I associate with ask incredible questions that are scientifically inquisitive, culturally challenging, and investigative in nature.
Here are a couple of questions this gentleman asked me tonight:
Tony, (a police officer) told us of the tragic case where a mother and her boyfriend were accused of murdering their three year old daughter. John asked, “Dale, do you believe in capital punishment? If God is truly a God of love and grace why would he desire to put anyone to death? Suppose it was your son or daughter that committed a crime that deserved death. Would you sentence them to death? I just don’t know if I could do that.”
I proceeded to lead these guys to the Scriptures where we examined God’s Word together. More and more I’m trying to allow a process of self-discovery, as the Spirit of God prompts me to ask specific questions? Would you know what passages to take them to if asked about capitol punishment?
Here are a few that we looked at:
Genesis 9:6 (NIV) “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”
This was the establishment of capital punishment, administered judicially by man representing the civic authority to maintain order in a given society. It has never been changed or withdrawn. It is still God’s law today, and forms the basic authorization of the institution of human government.
Exodus 20:13 (NIV) “You shall not murder (premeditated and intentional slaying).” Personal revenge carried out in murder is never justified but killing is allowed when carried out by the authority of government, in war or in self-defense.
Leviticus 24:17&19&20 “If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death. If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” This powerful principle is simply this; the punishment should fit the crime, but not go beyond it. The false notion going around today is, “If ‘eye for and eye’ and ‘tooth for tooth’ is true, then we all will be eyeless and toothless. This is one of many phrases used by people that wish to minimize Christian truths.
In Matthew 5:38 Jesus made no alteration to the true meaning of the law in Leviticus. Christ was referring to our response to personal retaliation when confronted because of our witness by those outside of Christ. Jesus taught his disciples to personally return good for evil.
Romans 13:1-5 reveals the New Testament’s affirmation of the authority of government to carry out justice. “For he (government) is God’s servant to do good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” Romans 13:4. The primary role of government is to protect the people so they can live productive lives without the fear of evil.
In Acts 25:11a, the Apostle Paul affirmed capital punishment for himself when he was on trial before Festus, “If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die….”
Once again the New Testament and the Old Testament are in harmony when it comes to the principles and practices for followers of Christ and for societies.
So would I send my child to death for the crime of murder? Well God is completely loving and altogether just. He has given authority to the rulers and our children are to be in submission to the rules and authority of the land. It really is not my choice and I personally don’t have the power or authority to sentence someone to death.
God’s DESIRE, of course, is never to see someone be punished. He would rather us live free of sin and it’s consequences, but He also will not intervene with our choices. We are free to choose but we are not free to choose the consequences of our choices.
You will find this article archived after this week under “Topical Articles” in the blog, “The Truth about the World.”