Pastors to Utah Sheriff: God is Not OK with Death Penalty

“Davis said the Old Testament called for a ‘tooth for a tooth,’ but Jesus changed the practice of retribution with peaceful practices such as praying for your enemies and forgiving them.” Story

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Robert Byers's picture

If there's anything that proves God's against the death penalty, it must be the New Testament doctrine of the cross. Oh wait...

Todd Wood's picture

The discussion around this heart issue in Utah is heightened because of the cultural history of blood atonement: the idea that one atones for his or her sins through their death.

MShep2's picture

Right. And the Old Testament God was a bully and according to Matt. 5:7 Jesus came to "destroy the Law" and "the prophets." Wait. It doesn't say that?? He said, "Do not think I came to destroy the law or the prophets...but to fulfill"????

Luke 17:10

Jeffrey Dean's picture

This sheriff attempted to join a Utah firing squad? Really? Red flags anyone? Does he see himself as an avenging angel sent from Heaven? Bloodlust? Bragging rights? I really fear a leader who wants to help God by volunteering to kill another man.

Does it give no one pause that the woman who could be legally stoned for adultry was NOT condemned by Jesus? What did He teach? The Lord (OT and NT) clearly claims judgment and vengence for Himself. Does that mean Jesus did away with capital punishment? I do not see a clear theological argreement either way, but I am amused by those that think they do.

I work in a prison ministry and see the insanity and injustice of our justice system. It is very easy to shoot the wrong guy. (Especially if that guy is black and/or poor.) Of course, most are guilty of something, but I know a few rotting away who are not. Our system is nasty, cruel and inexact - and yes, probably similar to what Jesus knew when He was arrested.

My Jesus is Justice as well as Love and Mercy. It is not justice to shoot, fry, inject, or lock up the innocent. I kind of think Jesus is not OK with a system that kills innocent men - even if it is only occasionally. I don't think Jesus is OK with Christians who turn their backs on the accused and convicted. I'll let God repay sinners becuase He alone knows the truth.

Aaron Blumer's picture


Well, if the firing squad is the legal method there (I wouldn't know), somebody's got to do it. Can't see why the sheriff would be a bad choice. He is not volunteering to kill another man, but rather volunteering to serve the important work of justice.

Of course, for all I know he may be a bloodthirsty kook, but for all I know he may simply love justice and love to punish evil. Since God loves justice and loves to punish evil, it's really hard to say that's necessarily a bad thing in a man.

It is true that our justice system is a mess. I doubt it's better anywhere else, though. The case can be made on practical grounds that the death penalty in our system is a bad idea. But the case cannot be made categorically on theological grounds.

Jeffrey Dean's picture

Where is the believer called to love to punish evil? I think of the Sons of Thunder who wanted to call down fire from heaven - they caught a stern rebuke from Jesus for that. I cannot think of any admonition for believers to punish evil. (And certainly none that tell us to love to punish evil.) All I remember is that all judgment has been put into Jesus hand for a future time.

No matter how you couch it, this sheriff is volunteering to take another man's life. Yes, it is wrapped in the practice of law, justice, and social structure but give me a break... 'I love justice so sign me up to put a bullet through a man's heart.' How is that not a warped request from a sick mind?

And do we think God "loves" to punish evil? Now there is an awesome theological question. Does it breaks Gods heart to punish men or does He love it? His holiness cannot pardon evil, but is My God bloodthristy? Does He sit on His throne anticipating with glee His final judgment? Does it thrill His heart to throw men into everlasting punishment?

Aaron Blumer's picture


Yes, God absolutely does love to punish evil. It is the expression of His supreme holiness. "Glee" would be attributing a childlike quality to it--which it doesn't have at all--but yes, He is supremely good and it's good to hate evil.

Ps 7:11 NKJV 11 God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day.
Ps 97:10 NKJV You who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.

It's a bit hard in our day to think of delight in punishing as a virtue. But then, God is not a man. Think of it this way: if you hear of an angry brute beating a baby, you recoil and horror and hope the guy get's what's coming to him. If someone hears of a story like that and thinks "That's wonderful" we rightly judge him to be an evil person.. sick twisted freak comes to mind. In fact if a person hears of something like that and is even indifferent, we think that's pretty terrible.
Why do we think that way? Because we recognize that it is good to love the good and to hate evil.

We tend to not feel that way about smaller offenses. "Well, he only robbed the store to feed his kids" or "Well, he lost his temper. It's not a big thing." etc. But since God is infinite in His perfections, His love for the good and hatred of the evil knows no bounds. There are no trivial sins. And His point of view on that is not the defective one. It's ours.

So anyway, yes, it pleases God to punish evil. Which is why we have this written...

Is 53:10 NKJV 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.
Aaron Blumer's picture


Hit me in the car this morning. It's not quite as simple as I may have made it sound.

Eze 18:32 NKJV 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!”
Eze 33:11 NKJV 11 Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’

God certainly does take pleasure in revealing His righteousness by punishing sin. However, something else is going on at the same time. Maybe it's accurate to say that He simultaneously grieves at the personal suffering of the sinner. In the Ezek. context, this is the "house of Israel" whom He chose to be a people for His name. But I thin it's always accurate to say that it's not the suffering of the sinner specifically that pleases Him, but rather the judging of sin.

So in being imitators of God as dear children, we should also be pleased to see justice served but simultaneously not pleased about the suffering itself? I'm leaving a question mark on the end of that because it doesn't quite feel like the right answer yet. There are times when God seems to delight in the destruction of the sinner (read Rev.19).

In any case, what's clear to me is that there is nothing twisted about wanting to serve as a vehicle of justice. Enjoying seeing people suffer, per se, isn't necessarily part of that. (In the case of the firing squad, if you do your job well, they do not suffer for long... and you can focus on the suffering you might be preventing by keeping the murderer from becoming a repeat offender).