A stay of execution was granted to Robert James Campbell because of mental incapabilities just after I published this post.
There has been another routine execution in Texas by the time you read this. Texas is extremely efficient in their executions and, as is consistent with most Texas attitudes, they take great pride in the fact that they execute more men and women than any other state in the union. They really don’t care what happens elsewhere with executions and aren’t bothered by the botched execution recently in Oklahoma. To Texas’ credit, as of March 14, 2014 and of the 144 exonerations, twelve have been in Texas.
I know people have strong feelings about capital punishment and justice. I know many base those strong convictions on religious principles. What I have yet to understand is how any Christian or Christian denomination reconciles capital punishment, the death penalty and execution with Jesus? At one end of the denominational spectrum is the Southern Baptist Convention strongly supporting capital punishment and at the other end, the United Methodist Church strongly opposing it. The Southern Baptist Convention says nothing about Jesus in the resolution endorsing capital punishment and the United Methodist Church bases their opposing position entirely on Jesus.
So what’s the big deal, right? It kinda is a big deal because Jesus did not come to condemn, but to save. Jesus forgave even his own executioners and we are called to forgive as well. Forgiveness, or even grace for that matter, does not mean releasing a murderer back into society, but it also does not mean executing him or her either. In fact, key people in the Bible were murderers who were given second chances – Moses, David, and Paul for starters.
In Jesus’ day, it was completely appropriate to execute a woman for having committed adultery. In fact, the religious leaders tested him on this very matter, bringing a woman “caught in the very act of committing adultery.” As a Jew he was bound by the law of Moses which commanded death and they were trying to trap him so they could bring him up on charges for not obeying the Law.
We all know what happened.
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” ~ John 8:1-11
Grace is a scandalous thing. Scandalous because it looks everyone – even someone who did great evil – in the eye and says, “I forgive you.” Scandalous because, “not only do I forgive you, but you deserve to live, even if you took the life of someone I love.” No one, ever, is beyond the reach of God’s grace and love. An outcome of grace is reconciliation. And as the mass murderer Paul would later proclaim, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us (2 Corinthians 5:19).
No Texas, execution is not routine, nor should it ever be.