The 19-year-old monster who stalked unarmed and innocent high school students and teachers in Parkland, Florida last month reached out through his lawyers to try to make a deal. When he wasn’t laughing and smiling to himself in his cell, showing no remorse or contrition for the first-degree murder of 17 people and the everlasting emptiness he created in the hearts of countless family members and friends affected by the loss, he was begging the state for mercy.
He offered to plead guilty to the 17 counts of murder thus avoiding a trial if prosecutors would agree not to seek the death penalty. Thankfully, the prosecutors in Florida have ignored that offer and will pursue capital punishment in the case. These officials recognize that government is an institution whose purpose is to dispense justice, not to selectively pick certain people to bend the rules and show mercy to. Doing the latter would be the height of unfairness, after all.
If the state exists to dispense equal justice, it’s responsibility is to ensure that the price of what was lost is – as closely as possible – equaled by the price of what is taken.
- Steal something? You will be punished in direct proportion to the amount you plundered.
- Cheat on your taxes? You will be fined in direct proportion to the amount you swindled.
- Destroy someone’s property or injure someone’s person? You will be fined or imprisoned in direct proportion to the amount damaged.
Kill a person (or in this case 17)? The state must punish in direct proportion to the value of what you took.
When the state “shows mercy” to a murderer by putting them in prison for proven, known, admitted first-degree murder, it necessarily cheapens the value of the victim’s life. It is the state declaring the killer’s life is of higher value than their victim’s.
That isn’t justice. That isn’t equality. That isn’t evenhandedness. And regardless of what anti-death penalty activists declare, it may be an unjust act of mercy towards the killer, but it certainly isn’t an act of mercy towards the aggrieved parties.
When Jesus was on the cross, he gave the repentant thief paradise, but He did not excuse him from his death sentence. That’s because mercy is God’s domain, while He has charged the state with the responsibility of justice.
Yes, mercy is a critical attribute and trait of Christ’s followers here on earth. But civil government is not a “follower” of God in the personal sense. What is it? It is, according to Romans, God’s “agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
The monster in Parkland is the definition of a wrongdoer. And the blood of 17 innocent victims cries out from the ground for justice. The state must see to it that such justice is done.