In February of 1997, Kelly Gissendaner orchestrated the brutal murder of her husband Doug in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Sentenced to die by in 1998, Gissendaner’s appeals process is about to run out. Barring a miracle, Gissendaner will be executed by the State of Georgia on Wednesday night (2/25/2015). Those of us who grow up in the South know well how this process of execution plays out. Over and over again, we watch society dispose of what we perceive to be our most brutal killers. Unfortunately, we fail to realize that no one has a right to kill anyone.
One day at the temple, Jesus met a woman similar to Kelly Gissendaner. The woman was tossed at his feet. The religious and government officials outlined her crimes and started to raise their instruments of execution. Instead of spending a bunch of time trying to convince or persuade the gathered government and religious figures, Jesus got down in the dirt with the woman. Now, if the religious and government officials were going to kill the woman they were going to have to kill Jesus too. With great boldness, Jesus wrote the crimes of the religious and government officials in the dirt. In the midst of the confrontation, Jesus declared, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” The religious and government officials realized they were not without sin and walked away. We all are just as guilty as Kelly Gissendaner and no one has the right to take her life.
Most people think that the turning point of the story comes when Jesus writes in the dirt or maybe when he speaks to the religious and government officials, I disagree with such assertions. Regardless of the outcome, the life of the woman was saved when Jesus placed his body in the dirt and was prepared to face the same punishment she was sentenced to. If we are willing to place our bodies into the conversation, Jesus shows us that we can save lives. Over the next two days, I pray that enough bodies will be placed into the conversation to save the life of Kelly Gissendaner. Bodies matter and enough of them could abolish the death penalty once and for all. May God make it so.