Previously, we saw that neither forgiveness nor mercy are compelling reasons to abandon the biblical practice of capital punishment. Now, let’s continue with the religious objections.
Religious Objection: Execution is incompatible with love.
God loves all people, and we are told to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). If we are to love all people, this probably means not killing them.
But there’s an obvious problem here. God, who loves all men, has killed many of them both directly Himself and indirectly through His agents. He killed Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5). He killed Uzzah the priest for mishandling the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:3-11). His servant David famously killed Goliath for taunting God’s army (1 Samuel 17). And He seemed quite pleased for Elijah to slaughter the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:17-40). So, here’s the quandary. Either God doesn’t actually love everyone or else it can be a loving thing to kill someone. Either option moves execution off the list of things prohibited because we are supposed to imitate God’s love. The best solution is both simple and counterintuitive.
Is it possible to love someone and execute that person? My emphatic answer is, “Yes.” Loving someone means wanting what is best for that person. Though I obviously admit that many people advocate execution because of hatred for the criminal, it is also possible to advocate it out of love for him. Loving a murderer means honoring him as a moral agent with accountability for his actions and also allowing him to pay for them with the only payment that is proper. Failing to execute him denies him this opportunity to atone for what he has done. Loving the murderer also means preventing him from further defacing the image of God embodied in himself. Failing to execute him only enables his ability to continue his own self-destruction.
Religious Objection: Only God may decide who lives and dies.
God controls life and death. Since only God can create life, only God has the prerogative to terminate life. When we execute murderers, so the argument goes, we are playing God and usurping powers reserved only to Him.