Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.
Matthew Henry, the great commentator, had this to say in his commentary on this verse.
Wilful murder ought always to be punished with death. It is a sin which the Lord would not pardon in a prince (2 Ki. 24:3, 4), and which therefore a prince should not pardon in a subject. To this law there is a reason annexed: For in the image of God made he man at first. Man is a creature dear to his Creator, and therefore ought to be so to us. God put honour upon him, let not us then put contempt upon him. Such remains of God’s image are still even upon fallen man as that he who unjustly kills a man defaces the image of God and does dishonour to him. When God allowed men to kill their beasts, yet he forbade them to kill their slaves; for these are of a much more noble and excellent nature, not only God’s creatures, but his image, Jam. 3:9. All men have something of the image of God upon them; but magistrates have, besides, the image of his power, and the saints the image of his holiness, and therefore those who shed the blood of princes or saints incur a double guilt.
Blue Letter Bible – Commentaries – Matthew Henry – Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible – www.blueletterbible.org
Paul, in Romans 13, echoes that God has ordained the government to bear the sword, and cautions that they don’t bear the sword for nothing.
In the Old Testament law we see the death penalty for murderers, even for men whose animals kill another due to the owners neglect. (Exodus 21:28-29) While the Israelite law doesn’t apply to us, we can clearly take some things from it in what God’s expectation of a government is.
My question is, where is grace in this? Clearly, Christians aren’t to retaliate when persecuted, to turn the cheek when struck, to walk the extra mile, and to give freely to those who ask to borrow from us, but does this extend to murder?
Is the government to extend grace to criminals? Not that I’m suggesting murderers be set free, but does God want murderers executed still today? We live in a day and age where we have prisons that criminals are kept in relative safety, so there isn’t an absolute need to kill them to keep others safe. Did God give us this command as a means to keep others safe from the murderer, or is it a command that the murderer’s life be ended when found guilty of their crime?
What do we as Christians, say to a nation, that God has ordained, about their role of executioner of murderers?