The important thing to know about the “death penalty” is to understand whether such punishment is just. And to get the answer is to know the truth of the nature of sin and of the human nature.
Paul said, “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) Sin itself is the one that bringeth death unto us. James wrote, “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15) God’s penalty of death on sin is not a punishment but mere result of sin.
God’s laws are not commandments out of whim; the commandments are commandments to life. God said of the commandment that he gave to the Israelites, “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” (Deut 30:15-19) Proverbs 6:23 says, “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:”
The commandments of God are ways to life, and thus breaking the law would result to death, or destruction.
What we see sometimes as good can be fatal to us. The Scripture says, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov 16:25) Many of the commandment seems a light thing to us, but the consequences of breaking such laws, or of transgressing the laws would result to more graver evils. The Scripture said, “Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.” (Eccl 9:18)
The justness of death penalty is relative to human nature’s ability to avoid sin. If man is able to correct himself, or rehabilitate himself, from sinfulness, then why impose death penalty? A dead person cannot be rehabilitated. The argument would posit the assumption that the imposition of death penalty is because of the lack of power of the sinner to be rehabilitated or corrected. The imposition of death penalty implies that the person is condemned because of his nature rather than just because of the gravity of the sin.
There are sins that are beyond rehabilitation. John wrote, “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” (1John 5:16) There are sins that are beyond rehabilitation, and those sins are sins that we ought not pray unto God for remedies. Jesus said, “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” (Matt 12:31-32)
An issue on death penalty is related to the impact of the guilty person’s wrongdoing to the affected person and, or, to the community as a whole. People often does not examine the consequences of sin, but they rather would project themselves as merciful and not mind the impact of the sin to the victims, or to the community. People will be deprived of justice by unjustly denying or approving the death penalty to a crime. If injustice rules in a community it will spring up a sick society. A sick society will be a haven of chaos and a playground for more graver evils. When injustices rule in the society, individual citizens will take the laws in their own hands. And when there is no peace and order, the tendency of the citizens is to be governed by subjective morals, where good and evil becomes relative to an individual’s perspective.
The effect of a crime sometimes necessitates the death of the wrongdoer for those affected, or victims, to have normal lives. And conflict arises when the wrongdoer is seen seems capable of rehabilitation. Sometimes, people who judge are only focused on the benefit of the wrongdoer without considering the effect to the victims, or to the community as a whole. And without considering the frailty of human nature, people easily ignore the flight of the victims, and the victims are even usually misjudged as unforgiving.
Considering our human nature should be a big influencing part when we make our judgments. Even when dealing with friends, there are things that ruins friendship by simple errors. Though there is room for healing, the closeness of friendship is already ruined when certain error is committed.
The laws of a nation are influenced by the way we understand human nature. We see a good example of this from the time when the US government was forcing the Apple Company to provide a way to open the security feature of its cellular phone. The big issue was not about invasion of privacy, but of giving trust to the people of the government. The issue is the human nature’s tendency to be corrupted of power. The limits of tenure of government leaders is itself a security against vulnerability of human nature over greed of power. Here we see how the rulers of our land generally accept the reality that man cannot be trusted. Likewise, the Bible itself tells us not to put our trust on men, saying, “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.” (Psalms 146:3)
Now some are using human weakness to discourage in enforcing the laws on capital punishments. But such is not a good excuse against fighting the human weakness itself. As the Bible itself recognizes human frailty, and commands us not to put our trusts in men, yet we are still commanded to make judgments and make condemnations of men. Human frailty does not mean that men cannot be trusted at all times. But to make human weakness an excuse that we cannot enforce capital punishment is to build a culture in our society that we should not trust men at “all” times. Human weakness does not meant that we cannot trust men at “all” times. And today we can experience how people judge their government as generally corrupt instead of pointing out the specific persons who are corrupt in the government. Such attitude towards the government has become a culture and is destabilizing almost every government. In such a scenario, those people who are corrupt is given advantage for it is easy to sow chaos when there is no trust amongst ourselves. When there is no trust amongst ourselves, there will be great tendency for the leaders to fight for taking leadership rather than seek among themselves a collective effort to fight evils in among ourselves; such is now a common scenario in politics. In such scenario is where we can have a clear understanding of what the Scripture says, “Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.” (Eccl 9:18) Yet, in such scenario is quite hard to discern the corrupt men because the corrupt men can cloak themselves as sheeps, and only works their evil deeds in secret. Evil men can easily deceive in such a scenario. And when these corrupt men are known in view, they are merely seen as mere human possessing weaknesses rather than pure corrupt men. In such situation the holy men are not esteemed and are treated as equals to the corrupt men. Such state of chaos becomes ground of more form of evils to prosper.
The opposition to capital punishment due to human weakness seem good at first glance, yet it leads our society into a culture that is destructive than death itself. For out of such destructive culture we make more people to suffer not only physically but emotionally and mentally as well.
Christ said, “And yet if I judge, my judgment is true….” (John 8:16) Judging in truth does not involve personal preferences. However, in this present generation, more people are being drawn to judge according to their own perspectives because they are being influenced by the wrong teaching that truth is relative. And such issue contributes further in the problem of not judging rightly and giving the just punishments for crimes.