If you have been on social media in the last couple of days, there is a good chance that you have heard about Kelly Gissendaner. She is a Georgia woman on death row for her role in planning her husband's murder. Since going to prison, God has moved in her life in a profound way. She has come to faith and repentance. She received a Certificate in Theological Studies through a prison program. She is a minister to her fellow inmates. Her children and countless members of the clergy have begged for her life. But the State of Georgia is supposed to kill her today.
This is wrong. Even if her story was not a beautiful story of redemption, it would still be wrong. Aside from the fact that capital punishment does not seem to be a deterrent to crime, that it is sometimes cruel and unusual, that it is implemented in an inconsistent manner (the person who actually killed Gissendaner's husband is not on death row), and that some innocent people have been executed, this all comes down to love.
Jesus boiled down following God to loving God with our entire being (heart, soul, mind, and strength) and to loving our neighbor as ourselves. When someone in the crowd went sniffing for a loophole, he told a story in which the neighbor and hero was someone that audience would have despised. For further clarity, he straight up tells us elsewhere to love our enemies. I believe we are called to be people of love, of grace, and forgiveness. We are people of second, third, and two thousandth chances.
We should love not just with our words but with our actions. This means speaking up for the prisoner on death row. This means doing what we can to help the poor, the disenfranchised, the undereducated, the orphan. This means working to turn back the systems that oppress. This means laboring towards reform that makes life more livable for many. This means doing not just what is trendy and makes for a good selfie, but the more difficult and complicated things as well.
Let us love.
For more on this story, you can read this reflection by a student at Candler School of Theology.
You should also check out this column by Christian ethicist David Gushee.
If you would like, you can go here to sign a petition urging the State of Georgia to stop today's execution.