I’m assuming I don’t have to run over the details of what has been happening with the trial of Amber Guyger for shooting and killing Botham Jean. I’m sure you’ve seen this news everywhere. Yesterday Guyger was convicted of the murder of Botham Jean. Today she was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Living in the metroplex myself, it’s been what everyone’s talking about. Botham Jean was only 26 years old. Guyger 31, my age.
I’ve seen a good number on both sides of the issue outraged by the conviction and the sentencing: those who feel like 10 years is hardly even a gesture toward justice, and those who feel that this “complete accident” never warranted a conviction to begin with.
I have to say, I usually have strong opinions about these kinds of things. But this was unique.
In the midst of those convinced Amber Guyger was a racist murderer who deserves life in prison or worse, and those who think she should go free because this was a complete accident– I find myself in the middle wondering what has happened, and more importantly, wondering what true justice would look like. For that matter, I’ve even been wondering how any of this could turn out for good.
And then comes Brandt Jean and Judge Tammy Kemp.
Judge Kemp today gave Amber Guyger what was apparently her own personal Bible, showed her John 3:16, then said something along the lines of, “This is your job for the next thirty days…You start with this.” Then Brandt Jean, Botham’s brother, forgives Guyger before embracing her in what seemed to be a genuine, heart-wrenching hug.
Reporters were speechless. I’m speechless. Brandt Jean and Judge Tammy Kemp did not play toward any agenda, or platform themselves for any political showdown. They didn’t “side” with the police nor the Black Lives Matter movement. They simply, yet profoundly, shared the forgiveness that they themselves have found in Christ. There was an unspeakable awareness about the brokenness of what had happened, with all parties involved.
I don’t have answers as far as what should have happened with the conviction and the sentencing. I don’t know what would have been best. But I do know that in the midst of a broken world where there is no such thing as perfect justice, we do have a perfect Father in Heaven who is both merciful and just.
We may not always see justice here, or even know what true justice would look like. But our God is perfectly just, and will one day make all things right. His justice, ultimately, is why Jesus came in the first place, to pay a debt we could not pay.
We may not always see mercy here, or even know how to begin showing mercy to others, especially in circumstances of great pain and loss. But our God is infinitely merciful, especially in providing Christ as our Substitute, bearing our sin and shame on the Cross, then rising again defeating death and sin altogether.
There are lots of things in this life that are unsure. Even our thinking itself is flawed as human beings. Theologians call this the “Noetic” effects of the Fall. No wonder everything is so politicized and confusing and conflated and bent toward a particular agenda. Real truth is evasive at times, especially when entrusted to human beings.
One thing, though, can be sure:
Judge Tammy Kemp, before she embraced Amber Guyger: “John 3:16, you start with this…You haven’t done so much that you can’t be forgiven…you did something bad in one moment in time. What you do now matters.”
Brandt Jean, before he embraced the woman who shot and killed his brother: “I forgive you…I love you like anyone else…I personally want the best for you…I think giving your life to Christ is the best thing Botham would want for you.”
In Christ, and in Christ alone, we find perfect justice and perfect mercy. In Christ, and in Christ alone, we find lasting hope in this broken world. In Christ, and in Christ alone, we find hope knowing that God’s mercy is available to all who come to him in repentance and faith.