“Amber Guyger and Forgiveness”Categories: Meditations
My father liked to observe (not original to him, I’m sure) that the parable of the prodigal son had been preached on from every perspective but that of the fatted calf. You’ve got the prodigal’s perspective, the father’s perspective, and the older son’s perspective, all of which offer different spiritual insights.
I think the same is true of the story of Brandt Jean forgiving and embracing Amber Guyger, the murderer of his brother. Because Jean is a Christian (and how!), many brethren have been drawn to write about the grace he showed. Indeed, I’ve agreed with and endorsed everything I’ve read from them.
However, I think there’s another perspective here, and that’s the perspective of the murderer herself. If you are a worldly person, how do you feel about forgiveness on such an epic scale?
I think the question is easy to answer with respect to forgiveness’s opposite. Let’s say Jean had gone up to Guyger and coldly informed her that he did want to see her rot in jail, and indeed, to see her rot in hell.
I think most people, Amber included, would see that as a natural (Ephesians 2:3 overtones intended) reaction from an 18-year-old whose brother had been brutally gunned down. Indeed, Titus 3:4 observes that being hateful and hating one another is the expected state of the sinner (side note: is it any wonder that as Christian values decline in our nation, hatred seems to be on an inexorable increase?).
We understand that. We get that, and I think that Guyger would have understood and gotten hatred and condemnation. Perhaps, in light of her expressions of remorse, it further would have crushed her and added to her guilt. Perhaps it would have made her defensive and hardened her heart against Jean and his family. These things too are reactions that are natural to us. We are prepared to see them and even to experience them.
On the other hand, if you are Amber Guyger, what in the world do you do with forgiveness? Hatred makes sense. Love does not. It is not what you are prepared to receive. Something that is not natural has occurred. The ground under your feet that you thought was stable has suddenly shifted.
That sense of mingled unease, awe, and fear is the sign that God has touched the world again. It appears literally all the way through the gospels, following hard on the heels of many (most?) of the miracles that Jesus works. He leaves people reeling, struggling to comprehend that the light of an ordinary day should have shone upon such a thing. This is most evident in the terrifying stillness of the empty tomb. His closest disciples flee the scene of His greatest miracle because a dead Jesus is easier to accept than a living one.
I believe that God touched the world again when Brandt Jean said, “I forgive you,” Every time a Christian does something that awes us, we see and feel the evidence of His handiwork. Does this constitute proof in any rigorous, scientific sense? No, but I think even the atheists in that courtroom that day know in their heart of hearts what they experienced.
Do as you will with your life, Amber Guyger, but know this. The kingdom of God has come near to you.