Why the Death Penalty is Wrong


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Why the Death Penalty is Wrong

25 February 2015 Hits:15777

It is no secret that Christie and I, (and many others), have been advocating for many years against the death penalty that was passed down on Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.  In the light of this, it was no surprise that last week a friend of mine sent me a link to a conservative Christian blog that agreed with the death penalty being carried out on these two men. According to the blog writer to disagree with his viewpoint was to be guilty of “kneejerk reactions, emotional outpourings … fuzzy thinking, unbiblical thinking, and downright anti-biblical thinking.”  He goes on “to state once more a few basic biblical principles which we must not lose sight of as we think about such cases.”  He then proceeded to give a predictable list of “cherry-picked” Bible verses to support his harsh view, starting with Genesis 9:6: “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.”

This was a command, under the Noahic Covenant, to a fledging community of eight people as they began to repopulate the earth.  Human life is precious and should not be taken by another human. This is a clear authorisation of the death penalty in cases of premeditated murder.  But just because something is permissible does not mean it is beneficial or constructive (1 Corinthians 10:23).  Consider the first murder recorded in the Bible – that of Abel by his brother Cain.  God Himself did not see it as beneficial to take Cain’s life (Genesis 4:10-16).  He punished him by banishment from the community (like prison), but also protected him from others who would wish to kill him.

Those who attempt to justify the use of the death penalty by using selected Bible texts need to deal with the plethora of verses that endorse capital punishment for reasons that we find abhorrent.  For example, stubborn and rebellious children who would not receive correction could be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 21:18ff), the man who has sexual relations with his wife during her monthly period also has to die for such a sin, as does the person who breaks the Sabbath (Ex 31:14, Numbers 15:32-36).  If we still enacted such laws most of the human race would have to die!

There is no explicit command in the New Testament scriptures for the use of the death penalty, just a reference to the fact that the Roman Empire used capital punishment in certain cases, and so the Christian would do well to obey the law of the land, But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason” (see Romans 13:1-4; Acts 25:11; 1 Peter 2:13-14; John 19:10-11).  This does not mean we can’t challenge and question the law of the land.

The New Testament views capital punishment in much the same way as it does slavery – it doesn’t endorse it, it merely gives instruction because of its existence.

There are many reasons why the death penalty is wrong:

  • Capital punishment carries the risk of executing someone who is innocent, and once they are executed nothing can be done to make amends.
  • Some criminals cannot be reformed because they are mentally ill, brain damaged or mentally retarded.  Is it right to take their life because of a handicap?
  • The death penalty does not act as a deterrent – it is incorrect to think that those who commit heinous crimes rationally think through their actions before committing them.  The death penalty is actually a deterrent to rehabilitation. Why should an offender change their life if they’re going to die anyway?
  • Capital punishment is not a more cost-effective option than prison.  In fact in western countries like the USA it is cheaper to keep someone in jail for the rest of their life than to have them executed.
  • The death penalty doesn’t just punish the offender.  It’s been heartbreaking to watch the threat of the death penalty punish the Chan and Sukumaran families and their friends – innocent people!

The blog I refer to above concludes with this statement: Those Christians who bitterly oppose capital punishment must deal with God about this, and not me. This was God’s idea, and we have to deal with what God has revealed to us in his word about such matters. Yet sadly I find so many Christians ignoring God and his word on this, and just making things up as they go along.”

There is so much pride in this assertion, “I’m right and if you disagree with me and my interpretation of the Bible you’ll have to deal with God!”  Jesus constantly came up against this picky, proud, religious attitude and dealt with it head on: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel” (Matt 23:23-24).

Here was a group of religious people who cherry-picked their brand of truth but neglected the most important themes expressed in Scripture: justice, mercy and faithfulness.  In this context justice means, “being fair and even-handed in judgment.” Mercy refers to “being compassionate and kind in action,” and faithfulness (or trust) means, “being loyal to God and His Word”.  Jesus applied these concepts in confronting the Pharisees because they had reached a tragically wrong conclusion regarding the intent of God’s laws.  The Pharisees had corrupted the intent of God’s Law by making it harsher than it was ever intended to be.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I believe in tough justice for those who break the law.  I believe that Australia needs tougher sentencing including life sentences that mean life without the possibility of parole.  Our judicial system is often far too soft on hard criminals, and the media are guilty of glorifying them as seen on the Underbelly TV series and the more recent media glorification of Carl Williams and other gangland characters.  There are times when it is right to lock someone up and throw away the key, but Jesus made it very clear that “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” was a law that belonged to another era and not to the age of grace.

Regarding Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran what is being requested of the Indonesian Government is that they would use their sovereign power to grant clemency to two reformed and rehabilitated men (and others on death row in Indonesia) and commute their death sentence to life imprisonment. Yes these men did do the wrong thing ten years ago; they trafficked drugs, they were foolish young men; they’ve “done the crime” and would like to “do the time” – they are just asking not to be executed.  Andrew and Myuran are doing an amazing job inside Kerobokan prison of helping to rehabilitate hundreds of prisoners who will one day get out of jail. Why not let them continue this work?  Shouldn’t rehabilitation be the ultimate goal of any good system of justice?

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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15 replies on “Why the Death Penalty is Wrong”

ann tehsays:

Hi Ps, Rob & Christie,
I am totally standing and petitioning for Andrew & Myuran I believe they should live and not die I don’t believe in the death penalty ! I think these 2 young men should be able to serve their life sentence helping other prisoners to reform their lifes just as they have done themselves they have served 10yrs and did so much good in the prison helping others to change their life’s around Andrew & Myuran have proved themselves worthy of clemancy’ and mercy All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God But God is merciful and a God of not just 1 chance but many when we turn from our wicked ways and repent of our sins and give our life’s to him. I pray this verdict of death will be turned around to a life sentence where these young men can continue their good work in helping to reform other prisoners its still a life sentence their not free but they are alive and doing the work of the Lord. I pray for their families they must have gone through absolute he’ll I pray for Gods peace and comfort for them and pray that there will be rejoicing’ for each of the families and their sons. I prayed and cried over schapel’ Corby that young girl has served her time but really she is still a prisoner as she cant go out anywhere without being hounded by paparazzi I pray she will be able to return to Australia within the 3yrs and get her life back its going to be a long road but with the right counselling I’m sure schapel’ will make a full recovery from all the trauma and the nightmare she endured during her time in prison. Also there was another young Asian man who carried drugs into Singapore about 10yrs ago who was executed I remember praying and crying out to the Lord for this young mans life that was so sad as I believe he carried those drugs for his brother

Hala Lamottsays:

Jesus, dealt with many people who had committed sin, He did not have them executed but He forgave them!


Dear Christie,
I am so glad to see your work to save the boys, I got two sons who are in the 20’s. I understand how boys are so stupid and their brain is not completely developed at the age of 21 and 23. They belive in their friends. No matter how you bring them up , the World and the peer presure takes part of their trust out from our values.
I am praying with you for the boys, It is so sad to see how the family is suffering. Every time I pray I get gods promises that he will come to save them. Isiah 35:3-10

More than anything the boys were young and stupid at that time, but theyhave repented, reformed and helping others and they have so much to offer.

They did not take drugs to Indonasia, they tried to bring out from Indonasia. The boys should be handed over to Australia. Also the crime was done 10 years ago, and the indopresident was elected long time after. Any way let us keep beliving!

God shut the Lions mouth for Daniel. God opened the Priosn doors for Paul and Slas.
If you visit these boys again please tell them to keep praising god.


I and all of us, are hanging onto a glimmer of hope. I can’t imagine the suffering their famillies are experiencing. I’m a parent and just think the anguish would be unbearable. I remember 30 years ago an Asian man by the name of Ngyen being hung. I remember crying as I made way to work. We had a Sydney seige, aircraft shot down and another disappear. We have not sought retribution. We are just asking for Mercy and to spare these men who are touching lives.

Natalie Peelersays:

Thank you for this piece. I admire you and Christie for standing up for Andrew and Myuran, and standing against the death penalty.
I read the other article you referred to and was shocked by what it said, as I must say I am by many things that writer says.
I am very thankful to God for the amazing work the men have done in the prison, and for the changes in their lives. I am confused that some Christians would be surprised and doubt Andrew’s conversion, given the fruit that flows from his life.
If the purpose of prison is rehabilitation, surely these two are models of success!
I strongly believe they deserve a second chance, a chance to continue to serve the people of Indonesia. I continue to pray for God’s mercy and a change of heart from the Indonesian government.


The plight of these two young men plays heavily on my heart – I feel it would be a great injustice to send Andrew and Myuran to their execution. I think here is a great example of rehabilitation and the perils of the death penalty. It also appears to some political analysts as nothing more than political posturing by the Indonesian president in the face of pressures on his own position. What a shame! I do agree with Rob that capital punishment is not at all in line with New Testament grace as revealed to us by Jesus.


Thank you Rob, i totally agree. My thoughts and prayers are with Andrew, Myuran, their families and friends as well as the others facing execution this week. Such a horrendous thing, regardless of whether they have reformed or not (although it is certainly heart breaking as they seem like very nice guys, and Andrew a man of remarkable faith).


firstly Indonesia is a muslim country so the idea that a death penalty is wrong is not an issue as islam practices an eye for an eye.

secondly God is the lord of hosts so it is not beyond him to change a heart

thirdly it is the holy spirit that convicts John 16:8

the devil accuses be not like him
consider luke 17:2

I am sorry the divide is not favourable in your prayers do not accuse

Dr Jennifer Smithsays:

I pray Psalm 118:17,18 over Andrew and Myuran “I will not die but live and will proclaim what the Lord has done. The Lord has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death”


The Christian norm is the punishment must fit the crime.

If a person wantonly murders another born in the image of God then the only punishment is surely the taking of said person.

I have no problems at all in supporting capital punishment for people who have murdered others much like the late Broughton Knox didn’t.

Capital punishment certainly cannot fit the crime of drug smuggling.

and no Jesus did not say the eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth was for another era . He merely said the Pharisees and their forbears didn’t understand what it meant.
This is not hard to understand as they thought they could come to the kingdom via the law.

Veronica CHEEsays:

So if jail cell is not for the reform and rehab what for? If the two men changed for the better and then kill them just to show Indonesia government is not really care for the drug issue in their country. It is about political popularity and to me merely an incompetency of the president.

Alan Brennansays:

Hi Pas Rob and Christie
I remember 10 years ago most Australians were shocked that so many were caught and again on top of others in the same boat. I was frustrated and very annoyed at them for their actions. As time has gone by, we have seen their transformation and have learned to love them. We would have welcomed them into our fellowship without a hesitation. They were soldiers for Christ. Now as this is the very purpose of our movement,
how could we not love and care for them?
Upper middle age has bought for me a growing dissatisfaction with my self and who I
am. So I now find myself putting everyone else in the church above my station.
I would do anything to help them in their ministry. Such commitment, youth, vitality focus all flushed away. We are all diminished as a result.

Steven Boltsays:

Rob and readers, I am still convinced that the death penalty is a fitting punishment for crimes such as this. You have clearly invested much into the lives of these two men and my hope is that it will bear the ultimate fruit in eternity for them.
I believe a society, a government, has not the right, but the responsibility to deliver justice. Indonesia it seems does not always achieve this, but in the case of the 2 aussie drug traffickers, I believe the Indonesians did the right thing, except for the time it has taken for them to deliver the sentence.

Ann Johnstonesays:

Despite so many pleas for mercy, despite the reformed characters of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, and despite the work these two men did to reform other drug dealers, their lives were snuffed out at 12.35am on Wednesday 29th April 2015. While they are now beyond pain and torment, and no doubt rejoicing in the presence of Jesus, there are many questions left unanswered. There are some who still uphold the death penalty, but there are many more who see it as barbaric, pointless, and a significant blot on Indonesia’s reputation and, in particular, that of their President, Joko Widodo.

Around 1596, a famous playwright penned the words:

“The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…”

We can talk all we like about justice, retribution and judgment, but it is this quality of mercy that rings most true… and which was most absent last Wednesday, when under cover of darkness, eight people’s lives were brutally ended by firing squad on a lonely island in Indonesia. I stayed up until nearly 4am in the vain hope that mercy would prevail, but that wasn’t to happen. Instead the singing of ‘Amazing grace’ was interrupted by the harsh sound of gunfire, and eight lives were needlessly ended. I don’t need to repeat what has already been voiced by many… but I hope and pray that our world will become a better place, one where love and mercy triumph over hatred and retribution.



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