Yesterday there was an article in the local paper about a letter that the County Sheriff had posted on his FaceBook page. Read it here: http://www.standard.net/topics/featured/2011/01/12/sheriff-god-approves-capital-punishment Because he is an elected official, and he had the 'nerve' to talk about his religious beliefs to employees, the letter, (which was according to the newspaper article on department letterhead), caused quite a bit of commotion. The Sheriff’s letter (which I haven’t had the opportunity to read, so I'm just going by the newspaper article) is said to have stated his view that God approves of capital punishment, and that working in the field of public safety, such as in the Sheriff’s department, is doing God's work.
A reporter from the newspaper called and asked if I would like to comment on the article. Read that article here: http://www.standard.net/topics/religion/2011/01/13/church-leaders-address-sheriffs-letter-capital-punishment. Some of my remarks were addressed by other contributing sources, so they weren’t repeated, but here is what I sent in for consideration:
Wow. There are a lot of issues addressed in the article you asked about. Does God approve of capital punishment? Did the sheriff cross the line? Is public safety doing God's work?
Briefly here are comments on all three issues.
Does God approve of capital punishment?
Throughout the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament there are several laws given which indicate that a person who violates that law shall be stoned to death. Since the laws came directly from God, it does indeed appear that He would favor capital punishment. But it was God who decided which crimes would be punished by stoning. God, not man decides the appropriate punishment for each crime. Having established that under the Mosaic Law, ‘capital punishment’ was the appropriate punishment for such things as adultery, touching the Holy Mountain, keeping a bull known to have gored people in the past and allowing it to gore someone else, blasphemy, gathering wood on the Sabbath, or cursing or attacking his father or mother, we don’t seem to have continued the tradition except on a selective basis.
However under Grace, which we live under thanks to Jesus Christ, things are different. When Jesus was asked to condemn the woman caught in adultery, he simply suggested that the person without sin should cast the first stone, and when all the religious types had left without further accusing her, neither did Jesus. Jesus also warned people not to judge lest they also be judged. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about sexual immorality: under the Mosaic Law, such sinners would have been stoned - under grace, Paul wrote that if they were professing to be Christian, they should be expelled from the fellowship and God would judge them.
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote “Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends”.
God requires punishment for certain sins, but in many cases Jesus has already paid the price.
Bottom line, I think God approves of capital punishment when He has passed judgment, and He decides that death is the appropriate response. And by the way, God doesn’t consult me on who He should find guilty.
Did the sheriff cross the line?This is difficult, but only because of our culture of ‘politically correct’. A poll done in 2008 http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_prac2.htm showed that about 76% of Americans consider themselves to be Christian; throughout the 1990s, over 85% called themselves Christian. While I don’t see a need to be deliberately offensive to non-believers, I also don’t see why a Christian should be prohibited from expressing views that a veto-proof majority claim to hold as their own.
Is public safety doing God's work? Many people are under the mistaken assumption that God is perfectly content with a couple of hours of our time each week, usually on Sunday morning; that’s not even a tithe (10% of the hours in a week would mean 16.8 hours in God's service). If we truly believe that God is worthy of glory, honor and praise, then everything we do should be dedicated to His service: Sunday worship, work, play, and the Sabbath rest. So in that sense, working at any job, in any capacity, as long as you’re a Christian would mean that you are working in God's service, doing God's work.
I think most people like to think that their employment serves a higher purpose than ‘just doing a job’ or ‘it’s a paycheck’ . And what higher purpose could there be than serving God, doing God's work, working in a way that gives God glory, honor and praise?