Someone recently wrote in a post in Facebook:
“How can someone claim to be a grace preacher and still be in favor of the death penalty? It’s a total contradiction. I believe it’s time to make this very clear. If we preach grace, then we need to be consistent. Grace & death are poles apart. Grace and love will always protect, even if it means to distance oneself from the perpetrator or protect what is precious to us. Yes, there will be natural consequences to be accountable. South Africa is currently battling with violent crime. Whenever I hear about another rape or farm murder, it is human to be angry and upset. But there is grace for the criminals, even when they have to serve sentence as part of the consequences for their deeds. But there is no grace in ‘an eye for an eye’. I have especially targeted my statement to the so-called grace preaching pastors while simultaneously out of the same mouth they speak death. It does not make any sense.”
I agree. Grace is not ‘an eye for an eye’. Grace is forgiveness. Grace and love keeps no records of wrongs.
Grace and justice are perfectly compatible because justice is not law or legalism, nor is it about punishment or eternal torture. Justice is setting people free from the law and from condemnation. That’s true justice.
Grace changes people from the inside out. Judgment or condemnation doesn’t change anyone. It only inflicts guilt and creates more trouble in the society.
There are natural consequences for every action. People can learn from their own mistakes. No one will grow up if they are placed under do’s and don’ts, or live under threats of punishment, such as the death penalty.
Grace teaches people to learn to take responsibility for their actions and not depend on outward laws. Under grace, all things are permissible but not all things are beneficial. People will learn to love their neighbour and do things that are beneficial because love does no harm to a neighbour.
Grace is also wisdom. Grace means taking measures to keep a distance from those who are abusive, so as to ensure one’s own safety. Grace rules, not death penalty.
Those who receive ABUNDANCE of grace and gift of righteousness (or innocence) will reign in life over sin (or ignorance of God’s love and of our true identity in Christ) and death (or condemnation).
The issue of human dignity
It is about the value of human life, therefore death penalty in any form, whether lethal injection or other methods, can never be justified. I remember reading a news article recently which said that just by causing the person to wait for the lethal injection to be ministered would likely to have caused some psychological trauma. I once watched a movie “Dead Man Walking”, which shows the actor Sean Penn who played the role of the condemned experiencing great fear and stress at the thought of dying before the execution. Death penalty is cruel and should be abolished for the sake of human dignity.
Update (24 October 2012)
I’ve been through my own seasons of disillusionment and cynicism about the lack of action and responsibility by the authorities to do something about the state of the world, and I am finding my own way to see what can be done. It is not easy to find hope, though I do see some small progress, such as the recent move by the local government to revise laws on death penalty, for example. It’s thanks to my best friend’s sharing with me about Troy Davis’ case last year that I was eventually inspired to write to the national newspaper forum to abolish death penalty, and I believe this, together with other collective efforts by other activists, have helped make some positive changes in the laws.