Last week I had an interesting, uh, conversation. I was at a friend’s house for dinner. Conversations typically range widely between the hilarious to the inane to the serious. I don’t even remember how we got to talk about it, but the ol’ Anne Pressley crime came up. One guy mentioned how he wished the assailant would suffer the same horrible death she did. I think the next thing said was something to the effect of “yeah we want that kind of justice but that’s not really how God wants us to think about it.” This really set the guy off and a very long debate ensued. In the flesh, I agree with the guy. If someone attacked a friend or family member, I would want equally bad things to happen to them. I hate the great treatment prisoners get because as far as I’m concerned when they took the rights of someone else, they lost theirs. But I’m not “of the flesh” anymore when I became a Christ-follower. I must allow the justice system to do its thing, accept God’s vengeance on the man, and even be open to the fact that the man could be saved and forgiven. That last statement in particular is hard to swallow. This fellow just seemed like he wouldn’t hear any of it. (Early on, another friend pointed out how no one was using scripture to back up their opinion.) To him: the guy is guilty; he DESERVES what he gets.
During the course of the debate, this guy kept changing his point, which in my experience, when someone does that, they don’t have one. He was, in my opinion, perverting some scripture and misusing Old Testament references. He also brought up how we deserve what we get as sinners. (Not sure what that has to do with criminals getting the death penalty though.) I don’t have answers about the stories in the OT when God wiped out nations all for the sake of his chosen people. I mean, did those killed get a chance to know Him? Was that their only point to being born? Where are they now? I don’t know… But what I do know is that when Jesus came He changed the rules. It may have been “eye for an eye” and God wiping out nations, but now it is “love your enemy” and “saved by grace.”
He then attacked my political opinions, calling me liberal (just because I voted for Obama) and how liberals “don’t believe in the death penalty.” Let it just be known that my politics do not influence my religion. And this is the point I withdrew from the conversation and let the others have it. There was no scriptural backing. And he almost came across as “that doesn’t matter.” The bitterness was becoming very apparent.
Okay, so if someone wants to agree with the death penalty (and by the way, please don’t use the words “believe in” when talking about it), that’s fine. But as a Christ follower, I can’t reconcile my faith and grace with a statement like “they deserve it.” To be honest, I don’t know what I think about the death penalty. But what I do know is no matter how heinous the crime they committed, there is always room for grace.