I remember the day they found her body. Heather, a beautiful 15-year-old girl from the youth group I lead at church, had been kidnapped from our safe, rural community. I’d held out hope she would be found alive. When I heard the news we had all been dreading, my body convulsed with sobs. I was driving and had to pull over from traffic to cry.

My grief quickly gave way to rage when a local man turned himself in for her rape and murder. I didn’t waver in my reaction. I wanted him dead. I felt that way for a long time.

When horrendous injustice occurs, when lives are taken from us through murder and terrorism, it’s natural that we feel enraged. As people following a God of justice, we long for things to be set right.

Immediately after the Boston Marathon bombing two years ago, some called for vigilante justice as the press circulated pictures of the bombing suspects. Speculation on sites like Reddit cast suspicion on innocent lookalikes, including a Brown University student who killed himself soon after sleuths misidentified him as one of the bombers. Our deep, communal craving to respond to evil and enact justice can have tragic unintended consequences.

But now, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been arrested, charged, and issued the death penalty for the two bombs he set at the marathon finish line with his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with the cops. Their crime was evil, and the penalty is great. Today, a judge in Boston will officially sentence him to death. Along with the federal jury who decided his case, many expect that his sentence and execution will satisfy our collective desire for justice.

But will it?

Around the time of Tsarnaev’s trial, a major shift in capital punishment came in my home state. Nebraska repealed the death penalty, the first conservative state in nearly 40 years to do so. This marked a major victory for death penalty opponents, especially those in the statewide organization I lead, Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. With the help of our campaigning, the legislature was able to override the governor’s veto to enact the repeal.

My change regarding the death penalty did not happen instantaneously, like Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus. I went through a long, hard journey of discovery, starting after my friend’s murderer was sentenced to death.

I remember feeling satisfied with the verdict against my friend’s murderer. I was a political science major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln at the time, and I told my professor about his sentence. He replied that, given how long murderers can stay on death row, “he’ll probably never be executed.”

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At that point, I began researching the death penalty, reading dozens of books about the policy and practice. The moral and ethical questions weighed on me. My church had taught that government had the option of capital punishment, but must administer it fairly, as God’s ministers of wrath here on earth (Rom. 13.) But the more I learned about how death penalty worked in the US, the more I believed that our system did not align with kingdom values.

In my research, I found that I was not alone in my ambivalence over the fate of my friend’s murderer. Nor am I alone in concluding that capital punishment is not the answer. Victims’ families do not universally support the death penalty for a variety of reasons.

The parents of 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest victim in the Boston bombings, wrote an op-ed for the Boston Globe entitled “To end the anguish, drop the death penalty.” They said:

We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives. We hope our two remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring.

As the judge officially issues Tsarnaev the death sentence today, I’d caution against concluding that justice has been served and that now his victims and the people of Boston can be at peace. This, sadly, will be the beginning of an anguished journey for them and a tragic one for Tsarnaev himself. Issuing the death penalty and eventually executing a killer like the Boston bomber can only offer a small and fleeting sense of justice, if that. It will not bring back his victims, or heal their families’ pain. Indeed, only when Jesus makes all things new will those who hurt and mourn be made whole again.

Further, I believe that every life is sacred. A person does not cease bearing the image of God once they commit an act of evil or terrorism. I hold out hope that no one is beyond redemption, even terrorists. Paul himself terrorized and murdered early Christians. What if he had been put to death? God has saved a terrorist and used him for his glory before, and he can do it again.

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I have many theological reasons for opposing the death penalty, but I also have several practical ones I want to address. One of the biggest concerns for me is the risk of executing an innocent person. Our justice system, unlike our God, is not a perfect arbiter of justice. And when mistakes are made, someone’s life is at stake. Our country has released more than 150 death row inmates upon discovering they were not actually guilty of the crimes for which they’d been sentenced. The Innocence Project, which researches and rallies for inmates, cites that rulings based on a single eyewitness are the leading cause wrongful convictions. To help protect the innocent, Scripture uses the safeguard of two eyewitnesses who did not know each other nor stood nothing to gain by being an eyewitness in a case to help protect the innocent. Exodus 23:7 told the people of Israel, “Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.”

There’s also an issue of disparity, given the disproportionate number of poor people and black people who end up sentenced to death. In our country, the vast majority of death row inmates—95 percent of them—could not afford an attorney. There is a saying that “those without the capital get the penalty.” In some places, it may be that people in poverty are more likely to commit violent crime, including murder. But across the country, it is absolutely true that people with economic stability are able to avoid the ultimate punishment.

I will continue to advocate for death penalty alternatives, such as life without parole, for our most violent criminals. I think of how often God used exile as a punishment, and I believe prison is a form of exile. This sentence protects society and punishes the criminal, and in a way that can be lifted should we discover we’ve made a mistake. Ultimately of course, we cannot fully trust any man-made system. Still, we do the best we can to administer justice fairly while we trust the One who has promised to eventually set all things right.

Stacy Anderson is executive director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. A lifelong Nebraskan, she is an active member of the Lincoln Berean Church, and her past work includes serving as an aide to State Senator Rich Pahls in the Nebraska Legislature and on several campaigns at the Nebraska Republican Party. Stacy also acts as board president of the Nebraska Innocence Project.