In the Easter season, we remember Jesus' crucifixion and death for the sin of the world. Christians declare that Jesus' death brings life, so how can we then demand the death of certain criminals?
The Old Testament says, "You are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth." But developing a biblical understanding of capital punishment isn't as simple as appropriating select verses from the Old Testament. Are we prepared to execute those who curse their parents or worship other gods? These are also capital offenses in the Bible.
In light of the New Testament, we don't follow Old Testament regulations about such things as burnt offerings, building codes, or dietary laws. Jesus addressed "eye for an eye" and said, "Turn the other cheek." He talked about murder but focused on the root issue of anger. And when faced with an actual situation--a woman guilty of adultery--he called for the one without sin to cast the first stone.
A biblical understanding of capital punishment isn't a matter of assembling proof texts; it must be consistent with the gospel: that God redeems the worst people--and even calls them to do great things.
Consider the Apostle Paul. He originally persecuted Christians, overseeing the lynching of a Christian named Stephen. Consider Moses: before leading Israel out of slavery, he murdered an…