21 You have heard that it was said to people living a long while ago: “You shall not murder”; and anyone who should murder will be liable to judgement.
22 But I say to you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement, and again anyone who calls his brother stupid will be liable to the council, and whoever calls his brother a fool is liable to face the fire of gehenna (hell).
We have already spent some time looking at the commandment of God that we must not murder.
No doubt we can all agree that murder is perhaps the most serious of crimes, although there are cases when theft in some form or another may receive a far greater jail sentence.
There is a continuous debate as to whether murder should be punishable by capital punishment. In the Uk this was done by hanging. There are a number of states in the USA that still carry out capital punishment in some form or another: the electric chair, lethal injection.
In the UK the punishment of a jail sentence is usually given as life, but may only involve a few years in excess of ten, whereas in other countries life does mean life, or a jail sentence of so many years that the offender will die in prison.
The Old Testament certainly tells us that anyone who murders someone should also forfeit their own life.
You must execute anyone who murders another person, for to kill a person is to kill a living being made in God’s image – Genesis 9.6 (NLT).
In the times of the New Testament the Roman authorities would not allow the Jews to pass the death sentence. This is why the Sanhedrin took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor, in order to have him pass the death sentence.
Amongst Christians there is a division of opinion. There are those who want to see the death penalty re-instated. The death penalty is seen as the judgement of God, and a deterrent to others who may consider taking someone’s life.
On the other hand there are those who would not want to see the death penalty restored. For them the emphasis of Jesus’ teaching is on love and mercy, and compassion, with judgement being seen as something that takes place in eternity.
It is true to say that neither Jesus nor the New Testament says anything specific about the punishment for murder.
As the followers of Jesus we must be willing to accept those who have different opinions on the punishment for murder.