Is It Wrong to Want Mercy for a Criminal Who Deserves Capital Punishment?

The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

Is it wrong to want mercy for a criminal who deserves capital punishment? If not, wouldn't that be the ideal attitude to have in general?

It's right to love mercy. The Bible says so. "Hear, O man; what does the Lord require of you but to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8). And isn't it interesting that "love mercy" and "do justice" come back to back?

We have a situation in the Twin Cities right now where a young man lured a girl to his house through Craigslist, ostensibly wanting her as a babysitter, and then killed her. The jury two days ago found him guilty of first degree murder and manslaughter. There's a picture of her parents on the front page of the paper. And every time I see that I wonder, "What do you do?"

And then there was a video on a blog the other day of the wife of the pastor who was shot dead in his pulpit, extending forgiveness to the murderer who is in jail.

The parents of this young woman said they were glad at the conviction, and I didn't fault them for that. That doesn't mean they want this fellow to go to hell. All things considered, they lost their daughter, wrong was done, sin was committed and law was broken; and it is right, in so many ways, that this killer be punished.

To want mercy for him is good! But that mercy would take form in a social setting where you don't release criminals on the world. It would take the form of wanting him to be forgiven, praying for him, perhaps even visiting him in prison and offering to forgive him. But that forgiveness does not say, "I think it would be a good idea if he got let go."

He will be let go in heaven, but here society won't work. Romans 13 sets it up so that the government carries the sword to reward the good and to punish the evil, because society won't work if governments don't carry swords, prisons, fines, death penalties.

So yes, it's right to want mercy for criminals—to forgive them, not to hold grudges against them—and to want them to be punished.

Love mercy, do justice.

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