On October 2, jurors in Texas sentenced former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger to ten years in prison for the murder of Botham Jean, her African American neighbor whom she falsely believed was an intruder after mistakenly entering his apartment. The trial and subsequent sentencing did not evade controversy. Protestors decried the verdict as too lenient. Would a black man receive the same leniency in a similar situation?
After allegedly racist comments Guyger made came to light, anger turned to outrage. Did Botham and his family receive justice, or was the jury too myopic to see the prejudices in the case? Few, if any, were able to provide adequate responses to an issue as visceral as this. That is, until Botham’s brother, Brandt, spoke. “I forgive you,” an emotional Brandt said to Guyger. “I want the best for you … and the best would be to give your life to Christ.” Remarkable by any judicial standard, he then hugged her. Nothing could compare with the power of those words, echoed from the mouth of a true Christian. As Botham’s mother reiterated, forgiveness does not excuse the need for real accountability, justice and the need to fight against racial inequality.
Debates about the merits of the case and the inadequacies of the criminal justice system are certainly still germane. But while debates can bring about change, they rarely instill healing. Brandt reminded Guyger, and the watching world, that with Christ, all things are possible. Love never fails. The racial tension and political entropy engulfing the country will only find healing if it, too, listens to the words of Mr. Jean. Forgiveness is real. Forgiveness is possible. There are no exceptions to God’s love.