In the months leading up to, and through the hours in the wake of, the execution of convicted drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran, social media and the mainstream news have been flooded with the opinions of many. On the one hand we have those who fully support the execution, and on the other hand we have those who laud mercy as the superior standard.
It is a topic surrounded by emotions, and there are some terrible arguments being used by both sides. So, what are we to think?
Mercy is better:
But how is it better? And is mercy at loggerheads with justice?
I suggest that this cannot be the case: without the standard of justice, mercy is meaningless. Unless you know exactly what it is that you deserve, there is no value in getting the opposite.
This is precisely the case of the Cross. God's justice demands that payment be made for all that we have done wrong. Each and every one of us deserve no less than an eternity of suffering for each and every single slight against the infinite holiness and majesty of a perfectly good God. And this is precisely the standard which gives the merciful death of Christ its value.
Further to this, as if the death of Christ is not compelling enough, if we take the stance that mercy is better, we cripple ourselves as a nation. Should we abolish gaols altogether? Merciful freedom is better than just incarceration.
They were rehabilitated:
Yes, it seems that they were. However, actions still have consequences, and these are not necessarily removed by a change in character. The consequences of a promiscuous life include several sexually transmitted diseases, some of which are devastating to the bearer, but these diseases remain, regardless of whether or not the previously promiscuous person has begun a life of celibacy.
The two men had also become followers of Christ, and without detracting from this beautiful conversion, it bears mention that these are not the first two men to suffer consequences of crime after they are saved. We go back to the Cross, and we see a man repent next to our crucified saviour, even admitting that he deserved to be there while Christ did not, and we hear the words of Jesus, "Today you will be with me in paradise." It was not, "you are free, get down from the cross and go your merry way", it was "bear the consequences in this life, I will bear them in the next."
It is also worth noting that, while they sung hymns before the firing squad, these men were killed while in His Name, but not for His Name.
Were they? I've read and heard many times that these deaths were needless, pointless, and that the Indonesian government did not need to go through with the executions. But does it hold up?
I suggest that the opposite is true. Much like a parent does not want to (or get pleasure from) punish their child, and much like God does not wish for men to perish (see 2 Pet 3, if you think my theology is a bit off there), so the Indonesian government does not, necessarily, want to execute people, or take any pleasure from it.
But they did not have a choice. Much like the parent who has set a boundary to never be crossed, and much like God telling Israel "Jericho is mine; take from it and be destroyed", they didn't have a choice but to follow up the crime with the consequence of discipline. They were put in that position by the two men.
When a child accepts the risk of a punishment and crosses the line, when Achan, with full awareness of the punishment God had declared for disobedience, took from the spoils of Jericho, they take upon themselves the responsibility for the consequences. The same applies to Chan and Sukamaran.
What goes up, comes down. Throw a rock up into the air, and be standing underneath it, and it will hit you in the face. It's not that the rock hates you, or does it out of spite; the rock is just following the rules, and you experience the exact consequences you took upon yourself when you hoisted the rock into the air.
Their country, their laws:
This argument is usually used by lefties, in defense of other cultures.
"Oh, it's their culture to behead homosexuals, Christians, and Jews."
"It's their culture to mutilate the female anatomy, to have child brides, and to beat women."
"It's cultural to separate people based on castes."
Bemusing, then, to see the same reasoning used by conservatives - Christians, no less!
This kind of thinking is a product of relativism, and can be boiled down to the point where it is impossible to say that anything is either right or wrong, even in our own country.
Obviously, the opposite is true: we do not need to accept unjust laws. We rail against abortion because it is an injustice of the highest degree. We oppose same sex marriage because of the injustice (among other things) which follows, to children and society. The Americans had a revolution, sparked by an injustice in tax, by law. Daniel refused to give up prayer to YAHWEH, as it was an unjust law. Same applies to his three friends who were thrown into fire for refusing the unjust command to worship a gold statue. Clearly, we can and must rebel against bad laws, so to say "their country, their laws, mind your own business" is not a good argument to make.
So, what do we think then?
I can only tell you what is known for sure, and let you make up your own mind.
What we know, is that Chan and Sukamaran are responsible for their own punishment, even death.
We know that they were saved, and that (as far as we can tell) they are in paradise today, alongside the repentant criminal on Golgotha.
We know that they shared the gospel with fellow inmates, and reportedly saw others, even on death row, saved by Christ.
We know that justice, as hard and unpleasant a concept as it may be, was metered out in this life; that the sword to limit crime was used, and that the line once set still sits in the same spot.
So, we can mourn that sin entered this world, and through sin, death. We can weep that Andrew and Myuran were contaminated by the same original sin, the same total depravity, as the rest of mankind. But we can rejoice that these two men did not die in their sin, but Christ. We can jump with excitement at the mention of their impact on other inmates. And we can dance in the knowledge that, like Chan and Sukamaran, our consequences - our hurt, our sickness, even death itself - may remain a little longer in this life, but they have already been defeated, and removed forever by the blood and broken flesh of Christ on the cross.