execution

The value of life

His name is Frank Van Den Bleeken, and he is a murderer. He has endured thirty years of a life-in-prison sentence, but he wants to end it all. The country of Holland, however, has outlawed the death penalty, so he is seeking relief from a surprising source: He will be given a lethal injection of sodium pentothal from a doctor in what amounts to a doctor assisted suicide (National Review, October 2014, page 15).

The phrase used commonly in the United States is “cruel and unusual punishment.” Recent botched executions in Oklahoma and California have tended to lend credence to the idea that an execution, any kind of execution, for the most heinous of crimes, is “cruel and unusual.”

The Bible expresses the supreme value of human life. This is based on the fact that humans are created in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:26,27). This fact carries distinct implications. We are not to murder because we are created in God’s image (Genesis 9:6). So strong a principle is this, the Bible declares, when one does take human life, his own should be shed. Life should be taken only after deep consideration, fearfully, and with a mind to the life of the murderer’s victims.

Society, sliding down a slippery moral slope, has this all backwards: They urge the sanctity of the convicted murder’s life, but think little of the taking of an unborn child’s life, or the life of the elderly and the seriously ill.

In contrast, it is the Bible that elevates the value of a human life: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

With regard to the pain caused by executions, it should be said that the same challenges occur when administered by a doctor in his effort to provide “death with dignity.” The same drug (sodium pentothal) and the same procedure is used. It seems no one affords the same concern for the unborn child. This defenseless little body will simply be torn out of the womb without regard to pain and suffering.

And here is the irony: While the use of lethal drugs in executions amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment,” the use of the same lethal drugs to eliminate someone sick or despondent amounts to “death with dignity.”

Here is another fearful irony: While we seem intent on so casually tossing life aside, the Lord of Life went to historic trouble to save all who live. “In him,” we are reminded, “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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