August 22, 2016
By Kristen Johnson
Reuters is reporting today that the state of Texas has halted the execution of a man who did not kill anyone. That’s right – he’s on death row and he didn’t kill anyone, but was rather the driver during a robbery turned homicide.
Reading this article reminds me of a paper I had to write during my undergraduate coursework on a “controversial” subject and it had to be done with a partner. I was paired with a classmate, and we picked the death penalty from a bucket my professor had of various subjects. I met with my partner and I distinctly remember telling her “I am pro-death penalty, but let’s write the paper like I’m against it because I’m sure we’ll find more material to write about that way.” As it turned out, by the end of the course, I was solidly ANTI-death penalty, and I’ve been that way ever since (and that was 17 years ago.) I also started college as a rabid-Republican and exited as a moderate. (A whole lot of reflection and reading through the years led me to being a solid Liberal – but that’s a story for another day.)
It’s interesting to me that my (many) Christian Conservative family and friends are solidly “pro-life” and yet they are also solidly “pro-death-penalty.” I find this position fascinating, because it seems to me that a life is a life, right? But, apparently some people think we get to judge who lives or dies, and who “deserves” to live or die. I know for sure it’s above my pay grade – that’s God’s job, not mine.
John 8:7 (NRSV): When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
In this story, a large crowd condemned a woman to death for her sins, and Jesus challenged the crowd to throw stones if they were without sin. Needless to say, the crowd dispersed.
I’m not saying that some offenses aren’t worthy of severe punishment (life imprisonment) – but death?
Galatians 6:7-8 (NRSV): 7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.
1John 1:9 (NRSV): 9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Yes, we pay the consequences for our sins. Yes, some sins deserve punishment by society (prison sentences, community service, etc.) However, it is clear to me that anyone, and I mean absolutely anyone, can confess their sins to God and be forgiven. And, absolutely everyone should have the chance to come back into relationship with God, no matter what they have done.
Serve all with love.