Capital Punishment

The Jewish religious leaders were certain that this time they had the perfect plan. This, they were sure, would be when they got the best of Jesus, tricking Him into a public statement that spelled the end of His ministry—and perhaps His life.

The scribes and Pharisees brought Jesus a woman who had been caught “in the very act” of adultery (John 8:4). They reminded Him that the Law of Moses said that those who commit adultery should be executed—and asked Him, “But what do you say?” They hoped that He would either say she shouldn’t be executed, so they could accuse Him of transgressing the Mosaic Law, or that they should kill her—which would get Him in trouble with the Romans, who could charge Him with inciting murder, for they did not allow anyone but themselves to execute anyone.

As the people badgered Jesus, He knelt and started writing on the ground, pausing only to at last say, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Whatever He wrote, it clearly prickled the consciences of the woman’s accusers—who slowly slunk away.

Today few societies view execution as a fitting punishment for adultery, but some still see capital punishment as a fitting response to the most brutal crimes. We long for fairness and justice, but Jesus asks us to wait for and trust in the ultimate justice that only He can bring. The apostle Paul wrote, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19, NIV). Repaying death for death, one can argue, only reinforces the lie that violence is a solution. It makes all of us killers, and may rob a sinner of the chance to repent.

Hence, one can make a pretty good argument against capital punishment. After all, didn’t the Lord say in ancient times, “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind” (Gen. 9:6)? However, good people, even good Christian people, might not always agree on this controversial matter. Even so, we should always lean heavily in the direction of preserving and protecting life though we must respect the opinion of those who might be more pro-death penalty in certain cases.