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Saginaw, Michigan, United States
A sinner who may come before God because of Christ

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Capital Punishment

As a Christian, Scripture clearly tells us that human life is sacred to God. After all, He created man in His Image and set forth the Law so that a human life can only be taken in certain circumstances. He tells us to love one another, regardless of their situation, regardless of their circumstance. He even tells us to love those who are our enemies or who have wronged us. He tells us to even love the criminals in prison.

So, in light of that, I would like to propose a Christian Response to the issue of Capital Punishment.

Firstly, we need to be cognizant not of our desires, but God’s desires when an occasion happens that a life will be taken. To God, life is sacrosanct, so it was only for the most heinous of crimes (to God, not to man) that a person should lose his/her life.

In the Old Testament, God laid out the Law, and He also laid out the consequences (i.e. punishment) for violating the Law, some of which required the forfeiting of life. The consequence shows man how important the Law was to God and the seriousness of the situation.

In some cases of sin, God allowed a substitute to be used in place of the guilty one, in others the criminal must pay directly him/her self. In those cases there needed to be absolute proof that the person committed the crime. This was also at a time before there were "governments" so it was the family, loved ones, friends, etc. who were allowed to carry out the punishment.

In the New Testament, Christ, who is God, fulfilled the Law so that man was no longer the payee of the crime (Christ died for our sins) or required to carry out the punishment. I think of the response of Christ to the adulteress in John 8. In this well-known passage Christ says to the crowd: “you without sin throw the first stone (Tom’s translation) and turns to the woman and says “go and sin no more”. The Law moved from corporate to individual. It was now God who will judge and condemn not His people. It is God who is to avenge and bring about His perfect Justice.

However, when it comes to governing bodies, according to Romans, they have the right to designate those civil crimes that will be punished, including the taking of the life of the criminal. This can be done to fulfill the government’s role in administering the principles of justice and to protect those it governs. That should be the two measures used for any punishment.

Deterrence is the concept that I won’t commit a crime because I do not want to do the time. There is some truth in this, but most people who were caught committing a crime did not believe they would get caught. I don’t see Capital Punishment as a deterrent. My experience of being a parent has shown me that the possibility of punishment does not deter, it is the reality of punishment that deters.

For instance, if I say to my child, if you don’t eat your vegetables then you cannot go out and play with your friends, she will test that once. Afterwards, I only have to say it. If, on the other hand, she does not eat her vegetables and then I allow her to go outside, I have lost my credibility. The threat is only as good as the willingness to carry out the consequences, and with our judicial system, the reality of punishment is a coin-toss probability, or is at least seen that way. Doing the crime is worth the chance – so I do not see Capital Punishment as a good deterrent.

Capital Punishment does exact justice. The tricky part is to assure it is being administered justly. Man’s record on doing that is not very good. That is why in God’s Laws that were capital offenses, He required exact evidence and, if there was falsifying evidence, those who lied forfeited their lives as well - again, an example of how serious the crime is to the Lawgiver as shown by the punishment.

However, Capital Punishment is an effective way to protect society. The criminal has been removed from the possibility of committing another crime. The saga is done, the person is no longer a threat, but we have the same problem with administering it correctly.
While I see life as sacred, I can agree that Capital Punishment is allowed and supportable but only in very specific situations and with absolute proof and where there the purpose is to both administer justice and secure safety.

A Christian Response to Capital Punishment then is that it is allowed, but under these conditions:
It must bring about justice (the punishment fitting the crime)
It must bring about protection to society or to individuals
It must have been adjudicated fairly with absolute proof of guilt
It must not be done to appease the crowd or to sate our own desires

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Monday, January 08, 2007

God’s With Us.

This last Sunday, the sermon at church was on "God With Us", making the Scriptural case that God has been present with us in varying forms, but each time it was better than before.

For instance, in the Old Testament times, He was in the Pillars that led Israel in the desert and in the early New Testament He was in the Temple. Then He was Christ in human body and now He dwells in us, who repent and believe, through the Holy Spirit. In the future near He will be with us in totality, so there is this growing presence of Him with us through the ages.

That, on its own, is something to chew on and consider, but what does that mean “for the price of tea in China” (funny how we always want to bring something to us personally – like it is only worthwhile if it has meaning to us). It means that you will have a face-to-face relationship with God.

There is something about God that we need to realize and remember. He knows. He knows everything. He has the capability to see, comprehend, understand and respond to everything. Nothing happens that is a surprise to Him nor that was not allowed by Him nor done through Him.

I recently had a conversation where I knew that I was not getting the whole story from the other person. That is to be expected. No one can give the whole story because we do not know the whole story and because we do not want to tell the whole story and because we may not, at the moment, remember the whole story. Rare is the person who can give a blow-by-blow account of an event, but God knows the second-by-second of our whole life. So we cannot fool God – accidentally or on-purpose.

This means everything we do is not only seen by God, but understood by God, and judged by God, and one day we will be in His presence. That will be a humbling experience when we see the one whom we have hurt the most. Even our repentance will not remove the sorrow we will feel when we are faced with the ultimate love to us and realize that we have often given the ultimate snub to that love.

Our purpose, since it seems the fashion these days to seek out purpose, is to glorify God, and that is the standard to which we must measure each moment. Yet we don’t. We ignore God until we need Him. We focus on the daily grind, the latest fashion, this weeks cinematic release, the hottest song, the most popular show. . . entertainment, which by definition is meaningless activity, becomes most everyone’s meaning. We allow it to define us, to guide us, to control us.

And all the while God’s plan moves forward with Him coming closer to being with us each day and we will regret each moment we did not prepare for Him. Some will regret how they ignored His wrath, others will regret how they ignored His love.

Let us respond without regret, let us remember He is with us, now through His Spirit, before through Christ, in the future, before our eyes and act accordingly.

For His Glory,

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