There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins; and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
We sang it over and over. As the organ played, fear kept creeping in. The night before, my cousin showed me one of the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Sweat dripped from my face. With every line, I grew more frightened. The preacher paused the music and declared, “God murdered his son to satisfy his wrath for your guilt. Blood is the only way out of here alive!”
Scenes from the movie kept rushing back. God chased his son down a corridor. Knives extended from God’s fingers. Reaching the corner, God slashed until his son was dead. Shouting out, I rushed to the front. I had to get out of the way of Freddy Krueger or the God that murdered his own son. One of the pastors met me. Immediately, I prayed, “God, I’m a sinner. Don’t take my blood! I trust in Jesus!”
As tears streamed down my face, the pastor assured me that the blood was enough to protect me. I never believed him. If God was capable of murdering his own son, God was capable of anything.
True liberation only comes from the death of childish ideas. There once was a man named Paul. Before he met God, Paul believed that his mission in life was to run around killing folks. Paul believed that blood was the only path to what he wanted. Finally, God interrupted Paul’s childish thinking with a dose of love. After he got saved, Paul wrote these words: “When the perfect comes, the partial is done away with. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I grew up, I put away childish things.” Only children deal in blood. Grownups deal in love.
Originating in our thirst for blood, the death penalty represents a failure to love. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the highest executing states in our nation all have heavily Christian populations. Deadly theology leads to deadly practice. The death penalty is based on an idea that blood is required to atone for evil. We are carrying out an ancient ritual of atonement every time the state kills for us. The problem is that this denies any belief that Jesus is the atonement. God didn’t kill Jesus. The love of Jesus is what took him to the cross. The atonement is love. How can we love and kill at the same time? We can’t. Every time we carry out one of these executions we deny the love of Jesus. The death penalty has made us heretics. We are desperately in need of salvation.
Here in Texas, we are reenacting Holy Week. The only difference is that Adam Ward, whose execution is scheduled for today in Huntsville, Texas, is not Jesus. We are letting Ward say goodbye to his friends. We are giving Ward his final meal. We are leading Ward to the place. We are forcing Ward to climb up. We are making Ward extend his arms. We are forcing metal to pierce Ward’s skin. We are pumping poison into Ward’s veins. We are murderers. There is no question that Ward murdered City of Commerce Code Enforcement Officer Michael “Pee Wee” Walker in 2005. There is also no question that we are about to do the same thing.
Blood doesn’t help. Over and over, I put my faith in blood. No matter how many times I prayed, I got nowhere. The same is true of these executions. We can keep shedding blood all we want, but it won’t get us anywhere. Our image of God must change. God is about restoration, not execution. We must let go of the fear before the love can pour in. God is here to save, not to kill. God is here to give power to blood. In the midst of the demand for blood, the power flows through sacrificing our blood for others. Jesus showed us that this is the greatest path. On this day, that path flows through Adam Ward.
There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Adam Ward’s veins; and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.