Covid-19 Devotionals

On the Death Penalty

How peaceful is your neighbourhood? Ours seems to be rather quiet, with few crime incidents since the gate motor thief has been caught. The street is rather short, with a total of ten houses on either side of the road. Yes we have people who do not live in the street walking and driving the street … but then we have freedom of movement in our country. In fact, we have two police stations close by … the one 3 minutes’ drive west and the other 5 minutes’ drive east. Both police stations appear to be active, as their vehicles are seen just about everywhere.

Jenny received a message on her phone from the street’s WhatsApp Group saying a widower who lives alone was found murdered yesterday, 5 streets from our house. This would be about three and a half minutes from the one police station. The garden services arrived at his house and there was no response to their calls and hooting. Eventually, the police were called and they found the man murdered.

What is interesting is that in this section of the street, one side has houses and the other side has a school, church and bowling green. No opposite houses to see unusual activities … and then we have lockdown from 9pm to 5am. This sort of news rocks a quiet area … especially when no one is permitted to be walking or driving around during curfew. Apparently the killers used a bolt cutter to cut open the burglar bars to access the house. The elder gentleman could not have heard anything, as neighbours say he needed to take medication before he went to sleep at night.

I have been of the opinion for many years that not having the death penalty is a good thing because history shows us that during apartheid many innocent people were executed. Once an execution has been performed, it cannot be reversed.

As a young man of seventeen, I was conscripted to the then Defense Force for a nine-month period. After our basic training, our main function was to do guard duty at various places in Pretoria. One was 91 Ammo Dump, which is just above the Correctional Services in Kgosi Mampuru Street, Salvokop, Pretoria. During this period the “Execution Part” was built. I walked through that facility, and it was gruesome, especially the place where the hangings were done. The sight is ingrained in my mind forever.

So, I have had strong reasons for being against the death penalty … but I have slowly changed my opinion due to the many times woman, little boys and girls, and babies have and continue to be raped, ruined for life, and murdered. So many have been murdered throughout the country, on farms, in rural areas, in townships, in suburbs and in cities. Most of the murders are premeditated! The sad reality is that, in general, rapists and murderers don’t flinch at being sent to prison because there they are fed, get medical, have the right to vote, exercise, study, learn a trade … and have as much sex as they want.

In saying I have slowly changed my mind … I mean over a period of around 50 years I have gradually come to the point where I feel the death penalty ought to be reintroduced for two reasons. The first is as a punishment and the second is as a deterrent. There are so many spots in our country that have become “slaughterville” where seemingly many killers are not caught … and lives and families are ruined.

But there is a third reason that we tend to overlook, as we do other passages of the Bible. God gave us (not just Israel) the Ten Commandments for a purpose. The purpose is to manage society justly, under the reign of God, keeping a healthy, holy reverence for both God and mankind. Notice one of the commands is:

Ex 20:13 “You shall not murder.”

Note … unlike older translations … it does not say “kill”. It says “murder”. There is a huge difference here. To kill could be because of war, protection … and unintentional … whereas “murder” implies anger, malice, premeditation and willful! Take the man who rapes a baby girl, small boy or girl, young girl, young lady, mature lady or elderly lady … and killing them. No one can plead this act was unintentional! In fact, could a lawyer worth his or her salt defend such a person? This murder yesterday was premeditated. Forceful entry means premeditation!

Now you might say, “But we live under grace, not under law … how can we still use the death penalty? In jail, the murderer and rapist could hear the Gospel and be saved.” I agree with that … the rapist or murderer might hear the Gospel and be saved … but does that give them the right to live?

Let’s look at it from another angle … Has God made the Ten Commandments obsolete? I know many Christians live their Christianity by nine commandments … they remove the fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath Day”. To them, the one day’s rest in seven is cancelled out. Now, whatever you do to one you need to do to all. You can have idols then, you can commit adultery, you can covet, you may steal … get the point?

Ex 20:13 “You shall not murder.”

This is not a suggestion … it is a command! If God gives all life and if God takes life … what right has anyone to usurp God’s authority and act as God and take a life? In the midst of the Roman Empire’s decent into gross cruelty, Paul writes under inspiration in Romans:

Rom 13:4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

God appoints the government to rule on His behalf. Why would God speak of “for he does not bear the sword for nothing” and “an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” if He was not referring to the death penalty for crimes such as premeditated murder and by implication, all forms of rape?

O God, what a wicked world we live in. Sin seems to become worse and murderers and rapists tend to get away with their criminal activities. Graciously protect Your people and all people from these terrible crimes. Please work within the governments of the world to rethink the death penalty as a punishment and a deterrent. Amen.

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