By Vernon W. Redekop
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Extra resources for A life for a life?: death penalty on trial
3. Reflect on the meaning of mercy and forgiveness. Page 54 Chapter 9 What Is Justice? "Crime is a disease. " These words appeared in an advertisement for the movie Cobra. The ad shows what people expect in justice. Not a sensitive administration of law, but an overwhelming force seeking revenge. Through force of muscle and technology, the problem will be solved. People will get both protection (the strong arm of the law) and the "joy" of getting even with all who are hurting them. Do we really want a government characterized by a "get-tough" mentality?
Jesus represented humanity on the cross and took the punishment we all deserve. This theology comes in part from one of the servant songs of Isaiah. "Because of our sins he was wounded, beaten because of the evil we did. We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received" (Isaiah 53:5). This, however, was only one of the servant songs. Jesus identified more clearly with Isaiah 61:1, "The Sovereign Lord has filled me with his spirit. " These servant songs reveal that God does not act in a heavy-handed way.
Is this vengeance on the part of Jesus? To what extent does our behavior affect how we are treated now and to what degree do we await final judgment before God? Jesus taught that those who are good to the naked and the poor have been good to him and are to be rewarded at the final judgment. Even those who may have been pious but who neglected the needy are to be punished. " It seems that Jesus' emphasis falls on our behavior. He wants us to become less judgmental, more merciful, less Page 46 hypocritical, and more concerned with the pain of the hurting.