Why Modern Christians Dont Follow the Levitical Death PenaltyPosted: February 17, 2014
Every now and again, someone raises the fact that the book of Leviticus prescribes the death penalty for homosexual relations or that Romans 1 says that sinners deserve death. This then causes people to wonder whether true Christians should actually be killing those who engage in gay sex! For most people, the idea is ridiculous. But most people also are unable to explain why on the one hand the Bible appears to prescribe the death penalty, yet Christians dont actually carry it out. Why does that apparent contradiction exist? Lets look at that!
Well, firstly, Christians dont follow all the ‘laws’ of the first half of the Bible, IE the Old Testament. The Old Testament is basically the Christian religion before Jesus arrived around 2000 years ago. When Jesus arrived, he introduced a ‘New Covenant’. This involves adjusted ‘laws’ largely drawn from the Old Testament. For example, Jesus affirmed the idea that love is a good thing, as was stated in the Old Testament. Jesus also took some laws from the Old Testament and made them more strict, eg policy on divorce. But there were other laws that he made less restrictive, eg dietary restrictions. In summary, once Jesus arrived, policies changed.
Also central to this, is the fact that the Bible says that everyone has sinned. Yes, everyone. Christians try not to sin, but even the best Christians still accidentally sin sometimes, because even a bad thought is sin. So there is no distinction between ‘sinners’ and non-sinners. Everyone has sinned. This being the case, when the Bible says that sinners deserve death, it doesnt make sense to interpret that as being an instruction to kill, because then everyone would be dead. Rather, most Christians interpret those words as just being reflective of what we deserve rather than what we will actually receive.
As far as I can see, guidance from Jesus in regards to applying the death penalty described in Leviticus, is less than crystal clear. But, we can see from John 8 that Jesus did not seem to be a big fan of it. This attitude is echoed by St Paul when in 1 Corinthians 5:2 he appears to give advice that differs from the death penalty rule of Leviticus 20:11. There is nothing in the New Testament that Im aware of, that advocates using the death penalty as a punishment specifically for sin. To the contrary, there are at least two references that seem to teach that the death penalty for sin, no longer applies. So for Christians, this is ultimately what the Bible teaches on the topic.