Hands and Feet Amputated!
A news report came out on January 11, 2008, that made the daily news. Americans and many others were dismayed by the report, assailing the contents as cruel and sadistic. According to The New York Times, Islamic Law in Iran required the amputation of the right hands and left feet of five criminals. These men, convicted of robbery, suffered this fate because of their misdeeds and according to the Muslim requirement of strict punishment. In addition to this criminal punishment, seven men were hanged because of murder and drug smuggling in Iranian cities. This also would arouse the condemnation of many in more liberal countries.
Non-Islamic people may condemn this kind of criminal punishment, but we should thoughtfully consider the matter more carefully. We must acknowledge that Gods own Law, given through Moses some 3,500 years ago, required certain punishments that contemporary man would also ridicule and denounce.
God, through Moses, declared, You shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for would, bruise for bruise (Exodus 21:23-25). Later, in Leviticus 25:19-20, we read this similar statute: If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him. We may wonder if there should have been pity for one who was found guilty of such sins and crimes. God answered: You shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot (Deut. 19:21).
In our reaction against the Muslim practice of Islamic Law, we should be careful that we do not likewise condemn the strict justice that was demanded by God during the Mosaic period. This justice was required in the very Law of God Himself!
How should the Christian today look upon criminal punishment? First, we should not object to the governmental infliction of rightful and just punishment on a criminal that has been found guilty. Paul, the apostle, plainly says that we should be in subjection to the governing authorities (Rom. 13:1). Further, if you do what is evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil (v. 4). God has the rightful governmental authorities inflict appropriate punishment on evildoers of society (cf. 1 Peter. 2:13-14). Even at the time of Noah, God gives this principle: Whoever sheds mans blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man (Gen. 9:6). This would seem to indicate that there would be many thousands of people in America and many more around the world who shouldunder Gods directionbe put to death because of murder. Not only murderers, however, but all criminals should be punished. This should include thieves, robbers, child-abusers, kidnappers, and others.
Second, we would observe that there is much miscarriage of justice in this world. No nation perfectly carries out civil penalties, as God would want. Sinful men make mistakes and sinful men often wrongfully punish ones who should not be punished and allow true criminals to go free or experience very light sentences. One day God will exercise perfect punishment, according to His righteousness, justice, and wrath. God will render to each person according to his deeds. . . . there is no partiality with God (Romans 2:6, 11).
Third, the Christian operates in an entirely different realm. We are part of a spiritual kingdom rather than a worldly one (John 18:36). While the civil government operates according to justice that should punish the evildoer (Romans 13:1-7), the follower of Christ is under the higher law of love and mercy that seeks to redeem the sinner and reclaim the criminal (see Romans 12:14-21). God will exercise rightful vengeance in His own good time and there is a Day of Judgment coming (Romans 12:19; Matthew 25:31-46). The Christian loves even his enemies (Luke 6:27-28).
If Islamic nations exercise certain punishments, let us be careful to weigh the matter before we utter wrongful accusations. Let us look at this as God would want and not as humanistic ideas would suggest or a philosophy that would demand more rights for the criminal than the one who has suffered at the hands of wicked men!