Dear friends on the journey,
On September 6, 2018 Botham Jean was killed by Amber Guyger. Thirteen months later Amber was convicted of murder and sentenced to ten years in prison. The circumstances of this case are important, but not the whole story. You may recall that Amber was a white female police officer who entered what she thought was her apartment to find Botham, a young black man, sitting on her couch. Thinking he was an intruder, she fatally wounded him. Later it was revealed that it was in fact not her apartment. She entered Botham’s home where he was unarmed, sitting on the couch eating ice cream.
I believe the lesson here is forgiveness. At the sentencing hearing, Botham’s brother Brandt, in his victim impact statement, told Amber that he loved her as a person, wanted only the best for her, and offered his forgiveness for her actions that had ultimately taken his brother’s life. Brandt then asked permission to hug the defendant Amber. Gasps, tears and sniffles filled the courtroom during their oneminute embrace.
What struck me most deeply in this tragic story was young Brandt. How could someone forgive the murderer of a loved one? How could an 18yearold have such wisdom? He said it repeatedly in his statement…God. It was clear that his Christian faith has so strongly shaped this young man and his values. He understood that God would forgive her, and that he should too. I wonder if I could do the same thing. Could I offer forgiveness to someone who hurt me so deeply?
To this point in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is revealing the secrets of the kingdom of God. We’ve had the Beatitudes back in chapter six followed by his teachings on the dangers of wealth, the importance of denying oneself, and thinking as God does. In today’s parable, Jesus offers another insight: God’s mercy and the necessity of forgiveness. Grace, mercy, compassion and forgiveness not only describe the kingdom of God in heaven, they are also the keys to God’s kingdom on earth and how to live a happy life now.
Today’s gospel holds us to a higher standard in God’s kingdom and teaches us about the freedom that comes with forgiveness. Nelson Mandela said it well: “Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” The resentment, anger, pain, and grudges we harbor only bind us. Only when we ask God’s forgiveness and we forgive others can we make space for God’s grace and mercy in our lives, thus in turn our transgressor’s life.
The rub is in the place of forgiving and not forgetting. Forgiveness is not forgetting nor condoning but an opportunity to learn a lesson and more about ourselves and another. This is the place of growth and transformation and to encounter Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice for our forgiveness.