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Should Christians Support the Death Penalty?

By Rick Reed, Senior Pastor, Metropolitan Bible Church, Ottawa

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John Grisham's novel The Chamber captures the controversy that surrounds the death penalty. When a convicted killer, Sam Cayhall, is sentenced to the gas chamber, the community divides and debates the morality of putting him to death.

Christians approach this difficult issue with a conviction that God is ultimately the giver and taker of life. He controls the beginning and ending of each of our lives.

God has allowed humans to play a part in His creation of life through procreation. So does He also give us a role to play in the termination of life? Here's where evangelical Christians have some honest differences.

We all agree that God forbids murder. Individuals must not take vengeance by taking another life.

We also agree that God has commissioned governments with the responsibility of protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty. Romans 13:4 says a ruler 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.''

Some evangelicals understand this verse to allow governments to execute justice even when it means executing convicted killers. They point out that ''bearing the sword'' seems to imply more than simply locking someone up for a long time. Others would contend that governments can punish wrongdoers without resorting to the death penalty.

Even though Christians come to different conclusions in the death penalty debate, we are united in proclaiming God's offer of eternal life to all who trust in Jesus for forgiveness. Even those on death row.

Rick Reed is the senior pastor of the Metropolitan Bible Church in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Rick is a graduate of Biola University (B.A), Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M) and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (DMin). This article appears in Rick's book "That's a Good Question". Used with permission of the author.


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