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The Shooting

Gina Montalto, a beautiful 14-year-old girl, member of the marching band winter guard at school, woke up on a Wednesday morning, Valentine’s Day, got up, got dressed, and headed off to school. She had no idea that she would never make it home again because she would be shot to death at school.

And not just Gina, but a dozen other students and three faculty members, one in his 40’s and two in their 30’s. Seventeen innocent people shot to death by a savage, maniacal, murderer whose name I don’t know and I wouldn’t say it if I did know it because becoming famous is often a motive for school shooters.

I’m talking about the Parkland, Florida shooting in 2018. I’m talking about it because last week the shooter was sentenced. The jury had to decide if he would get the death penalty or not.

Standards for the Death Penalty

Most murderers don’t get the death penalty. That punishment is reserved only for murders that were premeditated and had at least one aggravating circumstance.

Was the Parkland slaughter premeditated? Yes. The shooter plead guilty to doing it, and he admitted that he planned it for five years ahead of time. He talked about how he strategized about how to kill as many as possible. He watched video coverage of other school shootings. He said, “I did my own research. I studied mass murderers and how they did it. What they got and what they used.”

He said from researching those he learned things like this:

  • Watch for would-be rescuers
  • Keep distance from your targeted victims
  • Attack as fast as possible
  • Wear clothing that blends in so you won’t be spotted as an intruder.

He said, “I’d have a small opportunity to shoot people for maybe 20 minutes.”

He said the reason he finally stopped was, “I couldn’t find anyone to kill … I didn’t think anyone else was in the building.”

Premeditated? Yes, for years.

Planned or in the heat of passion? It was carefully planned.

Did he know it was murder? Yes, he said he studied other murderers.

And yet the jury decided not to give him the death penalty. Evidently, they felt the death penalty is only for murderers who are worse than this guy. Worse than massacring innocent children for kicks.

This sentencing has sparked debate about the death penalty, and I felt the need to say something because I’ve been hearing Christian commentators who have spoken against the death penalty for murderers. They say they are pro-life, and that includes the lives of murderers. They say, “How can I be against abortion on the grounds of the sanctity of human life and also be in favor of the death penalty?”

What is the answer to that question? Why is it that most people who are pro-abortion and anti-death penalty? And most who are anti-abortion support the death penalty? Is that a contradiction?

No, it’s not. And I’ll explain why in a moment. But first, let’s look at the most important factor. The most important factor in deciding if something is moral or immoral isn’t whether we can harmonize it with other standards or how it seems to us. The only important factor in determining morality is what God says.

God’s Word on the Death Penalty

So what does he say? God was very clear on this point.

Genesis 9:6 Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.

Someone might say, “Wait—that’s the old, Mosaic law. But we’re not under the law anymore. We’re under grace.”

That’s not part of the Mosaic law. God gave this law long before Moses was a gleam in his father’s eye.

“But that’s part of the legal code for ancient Israel. Not for us today.”

Wrong again. This law was given way before there was any such thing as Israel or Jewishness. God said this to Noah in Genesis 9.

And it’s reaffirmed in the New Testament as well. In Romans 13 Paul tells us to obey the secular governing authorities because of the fact that God has given them the sword.

Romans 13:4 … if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

God has given the sword to governments. The sword was not for spanking people. It was an instrument of death. It was the most lethal weapon of the day, which is why they used it to fight wars. This verse is very clear that God gave governments the authority to put people to death.

So it shouldn’t be a debate among Christians. If you believe the Bible, you should be in favor of the death penalty for murderers.

And, I would argue, not just the worst of the worst murderers. All murderers.

So how is that in harmony is the concept of the sanctity of human life? Answer: the whole reason why God requires the death penalty is because of the sanctity of human life.

Listen to God’s argument.

Genesis 9:6 Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.

Why do we put people to death for killing humans but not for killing animals? Because humans are in God’s image, and that has to be taken seriously. If you let someone murder a human being and you don’t give him the death penalty, you’re saying that person he killed is like an animal. Maybe he should have murdered that person, but the murder victim wasn’t so important as to warrant the death penalty.

The Pro-Life Position on the Death Penalty

Why do pro-abortion people tend to be against the death penalty? Because they don’t have a high regard for human life If people are just highly evolved animals, then killing them isn’t really that big a deal.

Why are pro-life people in favor of it? Because they see that murder victim as bearing the image of God. So slaughtering that person is a strike against God himself. If I take a photo of your wife and spit on it and rip it up, that’s an act of hostility against you. And murdering the image of God is an offense against God that is so serious that God says, “If you do that, you forfeit your right to live.”

When they read the sentence, the parents of all those kids were mortified. Some have said it must be because those parents were unforgiving, vengeful people. It’s possible some of them are—I don’t know them. But I certainly wouldn’t assume that about them just because they were upset by this horrible miscarriage of justice. It may be they were upset because they believed their murdered children’s lives had value, and by not requiring the life of the murderer, they were being treated like animals.

It’s possible to be forgiving in your personal relationship and also desire justice to be done. You can put away vengeance and animosity from your heart, which all those parents should do, while at the same time respect the importance of societal justice and the image of God and call for the murderer to receive the death penalty.

Blook on Their Hands

I hope the Parkland shooter takes advantage of the mercy he’s been shown. I hope he repents and places his faith in Christ so his sins can be forgiven by God and he can spend eternity in heaven. That would be a wonderful outcome. But even if that happens, it doesn’t erase the fact that the jurors who voted against the death penalty in this case have the blood of all those children on their hands.