Do you like Westerns? I do. I’ve read more Louis L’Amour books than I can remember. I love Gunsmoke and almost any Western show that I can find from back in their heyday. I love John Wayne movies. I especially love Clint Eastwood’s Western work, from Rawhide to Unforgiven. My favorite movie of all-time is Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales.
Another of my favorites is Hang’Em High. In it, Eastwood’s character is wrongly hanged. He does not die, but quickly becomes a marshal who captures outlaws to hang. The days when the hangings occur take on a carnival atmosphere. Justice is delivered swiftly and without mercy. Although he wants to stop once he captures the men that hanged him, Eastwood continues working for the hanging judge.
Somehow a paradox has happened. While I still love this movie, I’m not sure how I feel about the death penalty. Where I used to advocate public executions that could possibly take on the characteristics of the hangings in the movie, I do not relish the thought of anyone dying. Where I used to believe in an eye for an eye, I’m not sure what I believe anymore in regards to capital punishment. I’m not anti-death penalty, but neither am I pro-death penalty.
Much of this has come to a head over the last couple of years. I suppose that I feel an empathy toward those who commit acts that could result in the death penalty. You see, I too once was sentenced to the death penalty. I had fallen short of the glory of God and faced the wages of sin. Yet, God had mercy on me. He extended grace to me through His Son. My sin was paid for by Christ’s blood. Jesus defeated Death for me, allowing me to experience life, eternal and abundant.
So, while I won’t usually rail against the death penalty, I certainly have come to a place where I don’t demand it either. I wish those who face such a penalty here on earth enough time to have the opportunity to be presented the Gospel, receive grace and not face that same penalty after death.
How about you? Have your thoughts and ideas about the death penalty changed during your life?