Eat At Joes

Just a regular Joe who is angry that the USA, the country he loves, is being corrupted and damaged from within and trying to tell his fellow Americans the other half of the story that they don’t get on the TV News.

Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On the Death Penalty and Revenge and Redemption

I posted a comment on another blog that had a post on the execution of Tookie Williams. A reader posted a response that Christians who opposed the death penalty were not following the Bible. I posted the following response to the original poster and in the middle a comment to the reader who claimed Jesus supported the death penalty.

I can respect your thoughtful struggle with the issue of the death penalty and reconciling it with a pro-life stance. I’m in the same boat in that while I believe that the death penalty is inconsistent with my pro-life stance, I’m pretty certain that if my wife or children or sisters or brother or anyone else I love were murdered I would want the killer to die. That’s a natural instinctual reaction. Revenge. Now to your claim that the “left” is “canonizing” Tookie Williams, I don’t really see that. I have not read his books which attempt to get young poor blacks in neighborhoods beset with gangs to avoid the gang life, but I am told about his efforts to keep kids from following in his footsteps. I don’t know all of the details of this case, but the danger with ignoring that a murderer can change is that it may send an unintended message to others in prison: that redemption will be ignored. If our intention is simply to eradicate anyone who may have committed murder then this is fine. If instead our intention is that murderers may be redeemed and even if they never see the light of day as a free man or woman they are not executed then we may need to rethink this.

To the poster who claims that the teachings of Jesus support the death penalty, remember that Jesus was himself the recipient of the death penalty. His words on an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth:

‘You have heard that It was said, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too.’ (Matthew 5:38-39) ‘You have heard it said, "Love your friends, hate your enemies." But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the sons of your Father In heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on those who do good and to those who do evil. Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect’ (Matthew 5:43-48).

And the Apostle Paul said:

‘Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God's anger do it. For the scripture says: "I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord." (Romans 12:19) If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head’ (Romans 12:20)

The feelings of revenge that you and I would feel if someone we loved were murdered is natural. God through the Bible calls us not to be natural men (and women) but to be transformed into new creations turning away from our sinful past and achieving redemption ourselves. I hope that neither you nor I are ever in the situation that the families of the vitims of Tookie Williams or other murderers are. I hope also that we are never in the situation that Tookie was in for there but for the grace of God go I.

My God bless you,



Update: Jesus was confronted with the death penalty one other time. A woman caught in the act of committing adultery was brought before him along with two eye witnesses. According to Mosaic Law (the commands in the Old Testament) she was to be stoned to death for her crime. Jesus stooped and wrote something on the ground, and said, “Let him among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” Then he continued writing on the ground. We suspect that he was writing the sins of those demanding the death penalty for the woman. As they read what he was writing they ran away. When none of her accusers was left, Jesus asked her, “Is there no one to condemn you?” She said there were none. Jesus responded, “Than neither do I. Go and avoid this sin from now on.”

Confronted with the Old Testament demands of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth death penalty, Jesus instead gave clemency to the woman. His acts of forgiveness are meant to be a model for our own behavior. Too bad so many who call themselves Christians fail to follow in his footsteps. Remember the crowd gathered around him as he stood before Pontius Pilate crying, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” They are the ones who cry out for blood today and will cry out for blood for generations to come.

Merry Christmas to one and all. May God forgive us all our sins.



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