This kind of sentiment seems to be the basis for Oklahoma State Question 776 - a law that, in effect, says that nothing can be considered cruel and unusual punishment when it comes to the death penalty. This is designed to protect Oklahoma when it executes an inmate using a bad combination of drugs, a combination that could cause the inmate to writhe in agony for 40+ minutes, as in the case of Clayton Lockett. (Side note: The Atlantic has a marvelous write-up on that execution.)
I've written about Lockett's execution previously, so I'll skip any talk about the case or the concept of execution, and jump right into this idea of suffering as it pertains to the Bible.
Many people quote the Torah:
And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.(That passage always invokes the Boondock Saints police station scene for me)
“Whoever sheds human blood,
by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made mankind. (Genesis 9:5-6)
But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. (Exodus 21:23-25)As if to say that God is on the side of visiting punishment like-for-like upon those who have committed crimes, without remembering the words of Christ, who took this passage from Exodus and turned it on its head:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.Jesus was all about forgiving those who committed harm, as He proved when He was executed. Here he is, on the cross, and he prays:
"You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:38-45)
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)Earlier, when Judas leads men to arrest him, and Peter cuts off one of the men's ears, he tells us that he is perfectly capable of seeking retribution:
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52-53)But Jesus is not alone in these sentiments. Paul echoes them:
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:And here, Paul is quoting Proverbs 25 (for the last part) and Deuteronomy for the first part:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21)
"It is mine to avenge; I will repay.Vengeance belongs to God alone, should He desire to take it; we, however, are called upon to love our enemies, and we know of love from Paul that it is first "patient" and second "kind."
In due time their foot will slip;
their day of disaster is near
and their doom rushes upon them." (Deuteronomy 32:35)
As for me, I do not believe in the death penalty excepting where an inmate might ask for it (it might be kind if an inmate is suffering in prison); but that said, it is far more kind to execute someone through non-painful means, even if that means we have to be patient and wait for a better drug cocktail to become available. Love demands we do these things for even those who have committed ghastly murders.
The alternative is that we become just as violent and horrible as those who we seek to execute. We become Pontius Pilate rather than Christ crucified.