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Friday, July 8, 2011

Death Penalty Revealed: The Truth About Law and Grace {Part 2}

The recent Casey Anthony trial has me wrestling with too many questions, and this is my feeble attempt to find some answers! If you haven't already, please check out Part 1 to learn a little bit about Biblical examples of the death penalty and the shift from Old Testament law to a New Testament form of government. Then, come back here and read Part 2!

Hays County Courthouse, San Marcos TX
Image by StuSeeger

The Reason for Death

Way back in Genesis 4:10, when Cain initiated the very first murder against his brother, the Lord heard Abel's blood "crying out from the ground". Even though this verse slightly creeps me out, it still holds extensive truth. Cain essentially destroyed the image of God, and his brother's soul screams for justice.

When God created man, His likeness, or image, was stamped upon both males and females (Genesis 1:26-27). God reiterates this idea by ordering death upon anyone who sheds the blood of another, "...for God made man in his own image."

We can obviously conclude human life has great significance in God's eyes. Our living, breathing bodies house one of the most important parts of our Spiritual character, our soul. The entirety of eternity rests on who we give permission over our being. No wonder God takes murder so seriously. 

I think John Piper said it best when he explained how the death penalty is the only true way to uphold human dignity. Yet we are not to take the situation into our own hands. God carefully instructs us to never use vigilante justice. The decision to bring consequences upon His people will always be His to make, even though He now appoints governing authorities to carry out that decision. 

What Happened to Grace? 

In one sense, the Bible seems to send out contradictory signals concerning OT law and NT grace. Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead because they lied, and Saul, who participated in the gruesome stoning of Stephen, was allowed to walk free and became Paul, one of the greatest New Testament characters who ever lived. The adulteress, in the book of John, was brought straight to the feet of Jesus for punishment, yet was saved from death and told to "go and sin no more". 

The only theory I can propose involves a God who knows all when it comes to our heart. Although we are not told about the adulteress, I at least know Saul repented of his sins and was extended God's glorious grace. Was that the reason why their lives were spared? I do not have a concrete answer, but what I do know is God can be both merciful and just. We need to trust Him to uphold the delicate balance between the two characteristics.

A Final Thought  

By no means have I extensively covered this issue.....I did not plan on it. But little Caylee Anthony's sweet face continues to haunt me, and I had to know for sure that the death penalty was the right course of action. At first glance I felt like I was betraying my conscience, but I also know the Holy Spirit's guidance was upon me. I am now convinced, more than ever, this is the way justice needs to be served for any and every voice wrongfully taken away. 

Would love to hear more of your thoughts in the comment section!  

Further Reading: 
I Have a Problem With Grace... by Daniel Comings at Divine Satisfaction

 -  Answers the question: What happens when God's people abuse grace?
God, Moral Judgment, and the Death Penalty by Al Mohler
 - An interesting article on the relationship between religion and the death penalty.

If you enjoyed the thoughts and discussion in this two-part series, would you consider passing along the post to your Twitter and Facebook followers? Thanks!


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