Seth Udinski, FISM News
The first round of selection for jurors in the impending trial of the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting began this week. It will likely be a case that will lean heavily on the question of whether the shooter should receive the death penalty.
According to USA Today, several of the prospective jurors indicated pre-trial that they would at least consider the death penalty in their delineation as the case proceeds.
The trial surrounds 50-year-old Robert Bowers, a native of Western Pennsylvania who shot and killed 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018, in what many described as an anti-Semitic hate crime.
Even before the trial has begun, the question of whether Bowers should receive the death penalty seemed to be at the forefront of the conversation. While some jurors seem to be in favor of Bowers losing his own life for such a heinous crime, others are not so sure, with one prospective juror commenting, “he’s a person, not a monster.”
Bowers is facing 63 counts. If he does not receive the death penalty, the chances of him receiving a life sentence in prison are very high.
Author’s Biblical Analysis
What can Christians make of this report?
There is much to say about a myriad of topics. The question of the biblical defense of the death penalty is likely going to be discussed ad nauseam as this case proceeds.
Of course, this was also a crime committed against the Jewish people. There is much for Christians to consider when we see overt hostility against the people of God.
We are reminded that we must both pray for and be in support of the flourishing of the Jewish people, knowing that they are the ancient people of God and knowing furthermore that salvation has come to us, as Gentiles, through the Jewish people (Romans 11).
But above all of that, I want to turn our hearts to the theological implications we see from this report, and it has everything to do with the death penalty. The truth of the matter is this: We all deserve the death penalty.
That previous statement may cause you to question my sanity, but allow me to explain, using the words of scripture as the guide for my argument.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned… – Romans 5:12
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:16-17
Different sins bring different earthly consequences. If I were to call for the judicial system to bring the death penalty upon the person who cuts me off in traffic on my ride home from work, I would be a complete fool.
But theologically, we all deserve the death penalty, and this death penalty is far more severe than that which the earthly hands of justice administer. We all deserve spiritual death because our sin is an affront to a Holy God, who deserves nothing short of perfect obedience.
We deserve the death penalty. This is somber news for sinners who cannot break free from our sin.
But praise God for He has not left us in our sin! He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to live a sinless life and die the death we deserved to die. Jesus rose from the dead and brought us up from the grave with Him, so that we no longer have to live in fear of the destruction of our souls in eternal perdition.
Jesus took the penalty away from us and volunteered to die in our place.
Christian, may this reality fill you with great joy! And if you are not a Christian, today is the day to trust in Jesus Christ. Repent of your sin and believe in Jesus alone for salvation, and you will be saved.
It would do us well to pray, as this trial commences, that the man standing trial would come to know and believe in the name of the Lord Jesus for salvation, even as he faces the just consequences of his actions.
May we always be reminded of what we deserve, so that we can more fully appreciate what we have been given.
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! – Romans 7:23-24