has come to sharp focus in the light of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World
Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington,
leaving thousands dead. How is the world to react to such a grievous
crime? How is the Christian
to respond to such a heinous sin ? What does the Bible say about Crime andPunishment?
of the Bible
is a holy and loving God. Being holy, He is just and punishes unrepentant sinners. Being love, He
is forgiving and long suffering. The Commandments given by God on Mount Sinai reflect the character of God.
The transgressors are to be punished. While pagan punishment for crime
was retributive, thatof the Old Testament was deterrent and restitutional.
punishment for murder, idolatry, adultery and so on, were death
and deterrent so that "all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will
do such an evil thing again" (Deuteronomy13:11). For
theft, damage and such crimes, the penalty was restitution (ref.Exodus22).
It is interesting to note that the original Hebrew word used here is "Shalam"which
has many meanings including "to be whole, to repay, to have peace".
Hence the Old
objective of penalty was to reconcile and to make peace.
It is pertinent to note that, there is no prison under Mosaic Law.
The situation was that either the criminal was put to death(if
his crime was too severe) or he was reconciled to the victim
and society through restitution.
revelation become complete in the New Testament, the objective of punishment becomes rehabilitative; but
continues to be restitutional and deterrent. Jesustells
the woman caught in adultery: "leave your life of sin"
(John 8:11). This is rehabilitative. Salvation comes to the house
of Zacchaeus when he makes restitution (Luke 19:8-9). Paul
instructs Timothy "those
who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take
Timothy 5:20). This is deterrent.
to crime is from two directions - that of the governmentalauthoritiesand
that of the victims and other individuals.
The response is also two dimensional - social
response of victims
and other individuals should be spiritual. They are to love and forgive
the perpetuators of the crime and pray for them. "Do
not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not
be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven"(Luke
6:37). "But I tell you: Love
your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"(Matthew
5:44). The prayer should principally be for salvation
of the perpetrators , their families, society and nations.
should be followed up with humanitarian deeds.
without deeds would be equivalent to faith without deeds and would be
by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead" (James
have the responsibility to take holistic action to tackle the spiritual,
and politicalcauses of crime and terrorism.
response of the governmental authorities should be social.
Their primary goal is to protect the society from recurrence of
crime, by executing deterrent punishment on the perpetrators. The
must also ensure that those responsible for crime make such restitution
as they are capable of making within their resources. This will also
rescue them from guilt conscious and be instrumental in a healing and
reconciling process. The governmentsmust
in addition initiate holistic steps to tackle the spiritual,
and political causes of crime.
does not absolve the responsibility of individual members
of the governments
from their spiritualresponsibility
the perpetrators, to pray for them and take appropriate holistic action.
This course of action,
based on sound Biblical principles, will reduce
future crimes and prevent the victims and individual members of society
from ruining their spiritual, emotional and physical health through unforgiveness, resentment, hatred and hysteria.