Some say Jesus’ ethic of love and forgiveness requires us to end the death penalty. This was the appeal Mother Theresa made when Robert Alton Harris was facing the gas chamber in California. She appealed to the governor saying, “Jesus would forgive.”
This view falters because it simply proves too much. What alternative punishment would be justified with this rule? Should we put capital criminals in prison for life? But Jesus would forgive. Imprison them for ten years? But Jesus would forgive. Imprison a murderer for 24 hours? But Jesus would forgive.
If this argument works it becomes justification for the abolition of any kind of punishment whatsoever. What Jesus decides to do in God’s court does not dictate what justices should do in man’s court.