For years now, I've been writing to several inmates on death row. One of them, Robert, was executed yesterday.
What he did was evil - a fact that he'd acknowledged. He fully deserved and fully accepted that he would have to pay for his crime. So do I. But I do not believe that executing him solved anything. In my opinion, it simply served to perpetuate the cycle of violence. It didn't bring back the victim. It didn't undo any pain. I can't imagine it truly brought healing to those who survived. There will be those who claim, however, that "justice" was done.
Thank God I receive His mercy, and not "justice".
One of the most revealing experiences I’ve had in my life was when I went down to Florida to visit one of my penpals. At the time, at least, there were contact visits in Florida’s death row. (I’m not sure that is still the case.) There was a good-sized room with tables & chairs bolted down, vending machines, and some board games. After all of us – inmate and visitor alike – were searched, inmates and visitors would be able to visit each other. A brief hug and peck on the cheek could even be exchanged. The only distinction between us was that the inmates were dressed all in white and came through one door, while the rest of us wore “street clothes” and came through another.
Suffice it to say that I’d been rather nervous about visiting, especially when I realized that I’d be in a room full of people who’d been convicted of murder.
Folks were allowed to wander around a bit, and it was obvious that some of the visitors had become acquainted with inmates that they weren’t actually visiting. Some folks were playing games, some were eating food from out of the machines, some were just talking. But I was suddenly struck by something. For all the world, it “felt” like I was in a K & W Cafeteria or some such. Outside of the clothing, there was nothing that made “murderers” seem in the least bit different from “normal people”. In fact, had all of us been wearing the same sort of clothing, it would have been impossible to tell us apart.
This was one experience that has stayed with me. No matter which side of the razor wire we live on, we’re all very much alike. There’s some evil in each one of us, and there’s some good in each one of us.
None of us deserve God’s mercy. Every last one of us has messed up. Every last one of us has acted in such a way as to nail Jesus to the cross. And every last one of us – you, me, and Robert – has to trust and rely on the mercy of God.