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Pro-Life series: Death Penalty

“I am pro-life.” I hear those words frequently, but have come to realize that people who say them often mean different things. Sometimes they mean “I am adamantly against abortion, and will focus my energy on ending this practice.” Other times they mean “I want expectant mothers to be able to choose life, so I will focus my energy on providing them with the support they need in order to choose to parent or make an adoption plan for this unborn baby.” Still other times they mean “I am against the taking of human life – whether by abortion, euthanasia, or even capital punishment.” This last statement is where I stand, though I hold respect for individuals with differing views.

I believe that life is sacred from conception to natural death. Since every person is created in the image of God, life and death should be left up to Him. It is for this reason that I have dedicated my life to working to end the death penalty.

While living in Helena, Montana, I was able to help start the Pregnancy Resource Center there. At the same time, I was working for the Montana Abolition Coalition to end the death penalty. Some folks thought it was interesting that I was doing both, but it made perfect sense to me. It was a privilege to be able to work on beginning and end of life issues at the same time. 

I understand that abortion and the death penalty are not the same. However, I think it’s important for us to consider why we’re pro-life. It seems to me that we believe that life is sacred because God created it – and that He has a purpose for every individual. This includes the unborn, but it also includes those who have committed terrible crimes. 

I am incredibly concerned about a government-run program that has the ability to take away life. And what’s worse, we are hearing more and more cases of individuals who have been sentenced to death and later found to be innocent. There have been 156 of these cases since 1973, and many of their stories have profoundly impacted my life. One of them is Randy Steidl who spent 12 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. I thank God that Randy is alive today to tell his story – every time he tells it, hearts and minds are changed. As Randy often says, “You can release a man from prison, but you cannot release him from the grave.” When a life is on the line, one mistake is one too many.

I should also state that I believe in redemption. Ezekiel 33:11 says, “As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked but rather that they would turn from their ways and live.” This verse is alive to me – I have become friends with a man who embodies redemption. His name is Billy Moore, and he spent time on death row for a crime he did commit. While on death row, Billy experienced a radical conversion and dedicated his life to Christ. Over many years, he built a relationship with the family members of the victim, and they ultimately advocated for his execution to be stopped. He came within 8 hours of his execution, but God intervened. Today Billy is an evangelical pastor in Georgia. It is the heart of God to make all things new – to redeem, to restore what is broken.  

Because I take seriously God’s ability to transform lives, this work is my passion and my calling. I once had a mentor tell me that there are many who are called to work against abortion, but there seem to be fewer who are called to work against the death penalty. He advised me that if I have this God-given call, I should follow it. I am thankful to have heeded his advice. 

As Christians, we all have callings on our lives – that’s one of the most beautiful things about the body of Christ. It’s important for us to seek after Him – to ask Him to break our hearts for what breaks His. If each of us works fervently in pursuing these passions, we will find ourselves furthering the Kingdom of God.

So to me, being pro-life means fighting for life at every stage. If we claim that all life has value, this must include the person on death row who has committed a terrible crime. Does God love him or her any less? We can hold people accountable for the decisions they make without taking away their lives and their ability to find out who God really is and how deeply He loves each one of them. 

This is the 13th post in our "What Being Pro-Life Means to Me" series! What does being pro-life mean to you? Over this fall, we'll hear various writers respond to that question. Learn more and subscribe for weekly email updates. 

[Image: Flickr user Global Panorama]

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