Monday, December 12, 2005

The Real Death Penalty

The state of California executed convicted killer Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams shortly after midnight on Tuesday December 13th, 2005. The notoriety of his case has once again fanned the flames of discord between supporters for and against the death penalty. In the run up to Mr. Williams’ execution all of his supporters cited time and again his changed life as evidenced by his authorship of children’s books advocating the perils of the gang lifestyle which ultimately led to his death.

In the religious community there is also another debate around this topic: that being whether or not God ‘approves’ of a legal ruling of death by any governing authority. The passions being what they are on this subject, you will likely hear from both sides that there is absolute proof in the Bible as to either position. Death penalty Christians may point to Old Testament scriptures such as Leviticus 24:17 which reads: “If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death.” Those opposing the death penalty may suggest that based on New Testament scripture, God demands mercy to all as proven in James 2:13 “…because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!" (NIV)

The fact is however there is no direct irrefutable guideline given by God in this area. What is direct is that the entire tapestry of the Bible is woven together to call all men into repentance through believing that Jesus Christ died for their sins on the cross and offers total forgiveness to all who will believe…that too includes ‘Tookie’ Williams.

Throughout all the publicity of his appeals, I have not heard any references to his asking for forgiveness of his sins through a belief in Jesus Christ. I may be wrong, and he may in fact have done this, but I have not heard evidence of such. What I have heard is a continual appeals process, request for clemency based on his “good works” and a general denial of any implications in the murder without any stated remorse for the lives lost in those murders. Generally his most recent public persona did not reflect a life that was characterized by the undeniable revelation of a true relationship with Jesus Christ. And this most of all is the tragedy in his case. Tookie Williams’ fate was clear. It was very likely that he was going to die at a very specific time – an opportunity that is not granted to most people. If he had not genuinely asked for forgiveness of his sins through Jesus Christ, then he died in defiance of Jesus Christ. If so, his fate is made very clear by the Bible in Revelation 21:8 “But cowards who turn away from me, and unbelievers, and the corrupt, and murderers, and the immoral, and those who practice witchcraft, and idol worshipers, and all liars--their doom is in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the second death." (NLT)

For Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams on December 13th, 2005 he met his first death however it is very likely that on some predetermined date in the future that only God knows, he will face his second death. For his sake, I pray that I am wrong.


Anonymous said...

Good post...and some very good points.
I knew a murderer in prison who had come to faith in Jesus. He was a gang banger when he killed his victim. This man's life was radically changed. He made restitution with his victims family and worked hard with his music to help the programs in the Chapel. He made no efforts to appeal his sentence...accepting that he was to receive the just penalty for his sin. The prison was so impressed by his testimony and Christian witness...that they commuted his sentence to life in prison so he would be able to influence others in population. This is nothing like Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams who became only a symbol against the death penalty...with a blatant disregard for the victims he denied killing, but which overwhelming evidence condemned him.

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A God who sends people to Hell?