Physical Life when One Deserves Death

 

Physical Life
when One Deserves Death

Today’s news stated in large print, “Convicted bomber welcomed back to Libya.”  The story tells of Abdel Baset-al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the famous Lockerbie bombing. 

Most of us have never heard of this man but many will remember the infamous bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.  December 21, 1988 saw the deadliest terrorist attack in Britain.  On that date, so goes the court record, Abdel detonated a bomb that exploded the aircraft over Scottish soil, killing all 259 people on board as well as an additional 11 on ground in the town of Lockerbie.  Although Abdel was sentenced to serve at least 27 years in prison, he was released at this time (after serving only eight years) because he has cancer.  Some consider him innocent, although the evidence was convincing enough to sentence this man.

The release of convicted murderers is very common today.  In fact, many nations have outlawed the death penalty, considering it “cruel and unusual punishment.”  In this case, many of the relatives of the victims were outraged with the release of this murderer.  However, he was greeted with a great welcome in his native Libya.  The report states that thousands of young men greeted him at the Tripoli airport, throwing flower petals as he walked from the plane.  Many considered him a hero for his deadly attack.

Why was this murderer released?  Kenny MacAskill, Scottish Justice Secretary, said that although Abdel had not shown compassion on his victims, it was the part of Scottish values to show mercy.  He stated, “Those who have been bereaved cannot be expected to forget, let alone forgive.  However, Mr. Al-Megahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power.” 

It is always good for the Christian to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38), to do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27), and to be willing to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).  We not only do not kill our enemy, but we don’t even hate him (1 John 3:15).  These are core Christian values, ones that are not shared by most professing “Christians” and certainly not by Islamic extremists.  But while these principles are ones that true believers are to practice, this cannot be the case of civil governments.

God uses the civil government as His “minister” or “servant” and it has a specific function: to reward the good and punish the evildoer (Romans 13:1-5).  Paul the apostle explains: “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).  The governing authorities bear the sword, which means that they have the power to bring criminals to justice and to punish evildoers.

This agrees with the words of God given to Noah after the worldwide flood (Genesis 9).  He said, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (v. 9).  Evidently, this means that those who kill another human being should be killed themselves.  The Christian, of course, is forbidden to kill another, but this sentence of death apparently is to be carried out by the state.  We know that the believer is part of the Kingdom of God, whereas the state is in the realm of earthly kingdoms.  The two are in different realms (see Romans 12:9-21 as compared with 13:1-7).

The trouble is that the state often and even generally does not execute criminals.  We do not refer to the killing of those who sin, in the case of the Mosaic Law.  At that time, homosexuals, disobedient sons, blasphemers, and others were to be stoned to death.  However, the killing of killers seems to be something that existed before the Law of Moses and was intended to exist after the Law was fulfilled in Christ (Romans 10:4).  Murderers are to be executed, though the Christian will not be the executioner.

Today, we see people like Abdel Baset-al-Megrahi being lauded when he should have been executed.  If he shed the blood of 270 men, women, and children (all made in the image of God), the state should have shed his blood (Genesis 9:9; Romans 13:4). 

The United States has thousands of murders every year and many of the murderers are apprehended and convicted.  But few of the murderers are put to death.  Texas, where I now live, executes more murderers than any other state in the country, but most murderers are not killed even here.

Think of the murderers who are only required to serve a few years in prison and then are released!  Think of the abortionist doctors who are not even arrested!  Think of the many millions of mothers who have killed their unborn children—but none are arrested or executed!  Think of the murderers who have killed their husbands, wives, children, parents, relatives, friends, fellow-workers—yet they reat large or have served only a few years, then are released!  Perhaps we should even classify cigarette manufacturers as murderers, in a sense, for they have known that tobacco is lethal, yet they have encouraged smoking for all of these years!

We are living in a fallen world, filled with sin, crime and injustice.  In the name of mercy, a murderer may be released, as in the case of Abdel.  But, as the Scottish Justice Secretary stated, “Mr. Al-Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power”—and that Power is God Himself, the Judge of heaven and earth!

Richard Hollerman


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