Murder is a terrible thing. It destroys more than just the lives of those who are killed. On Wednesday, February 14th, 2018, Nikolas Cruz 1 walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and murdered 17 people.
I will acknowledge from the onset of this short reflection, that I am reticent to even write this post. It seems almost crass to speak of anything besides mourning when the memories of gunshots and blood are still in the minds of children. However, the world around us doesn’t seem to care about decorum and grieving. They are seemingly happy to immediately turn from grief to outrage and to move from mourning to political posturing. Unfortunately, it is sometimes our task to respond, even when the timing feels inappropriate.
Even while then gunman was still at large, Twitter and Facebook were already trending with cries for tighter gun control laws. It seems that people were quickly willing to shift the blame away from the individual who was at that moment still fleeing from the law having murdered 17 people. While the gunpowder from his rampage was still in the air, people were already decrying the NRA, President Trump, and a host of others. Rather than blame the man who had just ended the lives of 17 people, they were happy to blame almost anyone else.
As Christians, we do not have the liberty to ignore sin. While I’m sure that there is a complex web of sin and negligence that attended this man’s evil plot, we must never forget that this man’s evil plot was this man’s evil plot. President Trump did not convince him to walk into a school and execute 17 people. The NRA did not participate in some grand conspiracy to arm him for this wickedness.
As Christians, we do not have the liberty to look at this tragedy through a lens besides what the Bible gives us.
Murder is A Violation of God’s Moral Law
The sixth commandment reads
You shall not murder. 2
The command is simple. Taking the life of another human being, without just cause, is a violation of God’s eternal moral command. It is an affront to the very nature of creation, which was called into being by the eternally good Father, through the eternally good Son, by the perfecting work of the eternally good Spirit. Murder is one of the gravest sins that a person can commit.
A simple look at the cross-references on the sixth commandment reveals that this prohibition predates the giving of the Sinai Covenant by hundreds of years. The first recorded sin after the expulsion from God’s garden temple in the land of Eden was murder. 3 Although there was all manner of wickedness both in thought and deed before the flood 4, it was murderous violence that brought about God’s determination to “make an end to all flesh.” 5 It is no coincidence that after the Flood, one of the first prohibitions that God gives to the remaining humans was a prohibition against murder. It is in this prohibition that God explains why the unjust taking of a human life is so heinous a sin.
Murder Is an Affront to the Image of God in Man
Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. 6
While all sin is a rebellion against God and an affront to his nature, murder is a direct assault against the created image of God in man. In essence, it is man’s ultimate attempt to kill God and become a god in his own right. In taking life, we attempt to usurp a prerogative that only God rightfully has. 7 When we murder, we set ourselves up as our own deities and violate the very essence of what it means to be human. We have, in effect, rejected the very image of God that we bear in order to reforge ourselves in our own image.
For this reason, the punishment for murder must be death.
Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. 8
Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. 9
They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. 10
Murder Must be Properly Punished
A person who has been proven to be guilty of murder 11 must be put to death.
Moreover, you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, but he shall be put to death. And you shall accept no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the high priest. You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. 12
There is to be no quarter for those who murder. There is to be no civil forgiveness for those who murder. 13 There is to be no parole or plea agreement for those who murder. The blood of those who are slain corrupt the very land that those who survive dwell in, and the only remedy for that corruption is the death of the murderer. It is a wicked thing to allow those who sin against the image of God in this way to continue to draw breath. The only debt to society that a murderer has, is the forfeiture of his or her own life.
Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 14
It is the responsibility of our government to put to death those who take upon themselves the prerogative of killing. The sword which the government bears is not a tool of rehabilitation. The sword that the government bears is a tool to carry out the temporal consequences of God’s wrath upon sin. In the case of murderers, this is a sword which is to be used to kill the man killer. This is a sword which is to be used to draw the blood of the one who drew blood. Our government is derelict in its responsibility to accomplish this task, and as Christians, we are not honoring God by pleading for temporal mercy in the case of murderers. Every time our government offers a murderer a plea bargain it spits in God’s face. Every time it releases a murderer back into the community, it eschews its God-ordained responsibility to execute the manslayer. Every time it turns a blind eye to justice for the purpose of political or ideological expediency, it garners upon itself further corruption and judgment by God.
The terrifying part is that in the United States… we are the government. The citizens of the nation are the government which is allowing murderers to go free. We the people are the ones who are accepting a ransom for the blood of the innocent. We are the ones who allow the man killer to return to the land.
As I said previously, we as Christians do not have the liberty to look at the world through any lens but the one that the Spirit gives us in the revealed word of God. We must not tolerate this refusal to enact justice any longer. We don’t have a gun problem in the United States… we have a sin problem. Not just the sin of murder, but the sin of refusing to punish murderers.
- As of 7:42 AM on 2/17/2018 Cruz has not been convicted or pleaded guilty of the crime. He has, however, stated that he would be willing to plead guilty in order to avoid the death penalty. This is sufficient grounds to not indicate that he is only alleged to have committed this crime but to treat him as though he is guilty of it. ↩
- Exodus 20:13, ESV ↩
- Genesis 4:8 ↩
- Genesis 6:5 ↩
- Genesis 6:11-14, ESV ↩
- Genesis 9:6, ESV ↩
- 1 Samuel 2:6–8, John 10:18 ↩
- Exodus 21:12 ↩
- Leviticus 24:17 ↩
- Romans 1:29-32 ↩
- There are evidentiary standards that the Bible requires for proper conviction of any crime, and it is a matter of debate as to whether or not the current United States justice system is able to meet those evidentiary standards. ↩
- Numbers 35:31–33, ESV ↩
- This is in no sense to say that a person who commits the sin of murder cannot be forgiven by God, because of the death of Christ on their behalf. ↩
- Romans 13:2-4, ESV ↩