Why the position of Christians condemning the forgiveness of Amber Guyger is indefensible
Article By Rebecca Johnson // EEW Magazine // Spiritual Principles
I know this piece won’t win me a popularity contest among some and may put me on the receiving end of backlash and anger, but I’m a big girl. I can take it. As the longtime editorial director for EEW Online Magazine, I have received all kinds of feedback—good, bad, and indifferent.
As we all know by now, former Texas police officer Amber Guyger murdered Botham Jean, an innocent black man, while he was in his own home eating ice cream, after claiming she mistook his apartment for hers.
She didn’t even attempt any life-saving measures like CPR. Her previous racist texts, making light of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death and expressing her contempt for minority colleagues, were also admitted as evidence in court.
I know, and I hear you.
Though Guyger was convicted of murder, her sentence of 10 years is tantamount to a slap on the wrist. Some black men are serving four times that sentence for petty crimes like being caught with small quantities of weed and other illegal substances.
I know, and I hear you.
If the shoe were on the other foot and a black police officer “mistakenly” entered a white woman’s apartment and shot her dead, he would get life in prison without the possibility of parole, or worse yet, the death penalty. There would be no redemption for him, no forgiveness, no hugging it out in court after conviction and sentencing, and no declarations from the victim’s family that they were sorry he even had to go to jail.
Yes, I know, and I hear you.
I feel your anger when you say that Guyger was essentially coddled on national television, squeezed with hugs after having squeezed the trigger and shot a bullet through a defenseless man’s heart. Black America was triggered, and anger shot through our hearts. 10 years is neither justice nor accountability. Such a light sentence sends the message that black lives matter less.
Still, the victim’s brother Brandt Jean, a Christian, told Guyger that his brother would have wanted her to turn her life over to Christ, and that if she asks God for forgiveness and is really sorry, God will grant it to her.
“I love you as a person. I don’t wish anything bad on you,” he said to the 31-year-old, before asking the judge, “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug?”
Judge Tammy Kemp, a black woman, said he could, and the two met in front of the bench and embraced while Guyger cried. The judge wept too and even hugged Guyger before she was led from the courtroom. Kemp also gave Guyger a copy of her personal Bible, instructing the ex-officer to read John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
I hear you asking, what kind of spectacle is this? Why were black folks comforting a racist killer who tried to justify her actions? Why are black people always expected to immediately forgive our oppressors and offer redemption to those who so easily sentence us to death with no regard for our lives?
I hear you.
Guyger deserves neither immediate nor eventual forgiveness, nor exoneration for her crime. America, which has refused to give us reparations, does not deserve black forgiveness for the horrors of slavery, past crimes against our humanity, ongoing systemic racism, and abuse of black people forced to come to this country on slave ships.
I hear you.
White, racist police offers are still brutalizing and killing black unarmed women, men, and children, with impunity. In rare, shocking cases, like this one, when they are convicted of a crime, they receive little to no jail time.
Botham Jean’s life was stolen, and I hear you saying we have a right to be mad.
But what about withholding forgiveness and condemning the victim’s brother for extending grace and working to heal from his unimaginable pain?
I have some questions for you. What if Jesus withheld forgiveness from us for our sins and transgressions? What if Christ, an innocent man, refused to lay down His life for our redemption though we did not deserve it? How are we to obtain forgiveness if we are unwilling to give it?
Is Jesus’ command to love so that men will know we are His disciples, just nonsensical gibberish that should be dismissed when we’re angry? Is it biblically-sound to support a mindset that says, I don’t forgive you because you don’t deserve my forgiveness?
Is it a tenet of our faith that forgiveness must only be offered to the deserving? Can we be followers of Jesus’ teachings and put love, mercy, and compassion on the backburner?
Didn’t Jesus fight for truth and justice while also offering Himself as a sacrificial lamb for the undeserving?
Here’s what I know for sure. We did not and still do not deserve forgiveness. Yet Christ gave it, and we are most like Him when we extend that same forgiveness.
This is the gospel.
This is the radical grace of which we are beneficiaries. There is no out clause in Scripture when it comes to offering forgiveness if the crime is too heinous. Such a loophole does not exist to justify hatred and the willful withholding of forgiveness.
In our flesh, we will struggle at times to forgive. We are human, and that is to be expected. But to consciously and stubbornly deny forgiveness to offending parties and condemn Jean’s forgiveness of Guyger is antithetical to the gospel.
Forgiveness does not mean whitewashing history, glossing over social justice issues, and stopping the fight. No, we must be activists, calling out racism, oppression, and the subjugation of black people. But we must also love and forgive.
Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
I fear that some claiming to be Christians while refusing to follow Christ’s principles of forgiveness and lavish love, will get to the pearly gates and realize too late, as Amber Guyger did, that they are at the wrong house.
Instead of hearing “Well done my good and faithful servant, they will hear, “I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23).
Forgiveness, for Christians, is not a choice based on feelings; it is a command rooted in Scripture. If you do not forgive others of their trespasses, your Heavenly Father won’t forgive you.
I know you may be angry and justifiably so. However, if you are condemning the forgiveness of Guyger, that position, according to the word of God, is indefensible.
True disciples of Jesus are led by the Holy Spirit, who empowers us all to overcome our old nature and produce the righteous fruit of forgiveness and love. You cannot do this on your own, but through Christ, this is possible.
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NLT).