About Capital Punishment

Q. A man with a long history of rape and other violent crimes was sentenced to death for sexual assault and the especially heinous and brutal murders of nine women. Among the comments online about his death sentence, one person asked, “What would Christ do?” We know of Jesus and the adulteress, but in the face of the willful and excessive cruelty in these murders the jury condemned him to death, not life imprisonment. Assuming the proof was conclusive and the trial was fair, what would Jesus do?

A. In the case of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus didn’t dispute either the law or the appropriateness of the penalty. What He did was to invoke the “clean hands” rule saying only those who are not guilty of a sin are qualified to administer its penalty. John 8:6 shows the whole thing was a set up designed to entrap the Lord. This is confirmed by the absence of the woman’s partner, even though her accusers claimed to have caught her in the act. The Law required his execution as well (Lev. 20:10).

Based on what He said, I believe what the Lord wrote in the dust was the secret sin that disqualified each of the woman’s accusers. At the end there were none, and since the Lord didn’t witness her sin He could not legally accuse her either.

This incident is more the condemnation of an unjust process than a commentary on capital punishment. If the proof in the case was conclusive and the trial was fair, Jesus would uphold the law and its penalty. After all He wrote it (Genesis 9:6). If the man is a believer, or becomes one prior to his execution, the Lord will welcome his spirit into Heaven without prejudice, having died for all his sins on the cross.

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