Last week we wrote about the extraordinary demonstration of compassion and forgiveness by Brandt Jean to Amber Guyger, the woman who shot and killed his brother, Botham Jean.
Now we learn that the Judge presiding over the case, Tammy Kemp, has been accused of “an abuse of her power.”
What awful act did Judge Kemp commit?
She gave Amber Guyger a Bible.
So, the nation’s largest atheist legal organization, The Freedom From Religion Foundation, has filed a formal complaint against Judge Kemp for what they’re calling an act of “inappropriately proselytizing.”
Here’s what happened.
After the trial ended and the jury had been dismissed, Judge Kemp offered her condolences to the Jean family. Then she stopped by the defense table to offer a word of encouragement to Amber Guyger.
She told Guyger that “Brandt Jean has forgiven you. Now please forgive yourself so that you can live a productive life when you get out of prison.”
“She asked me if I thought her life could have purpose,” Judge Kemp recalled.
Kempt replied, “I know that it can.”
She said, ‘I don’t know where to start, I don’t have a Bible.’”
Judge Kemp said she thought of the Bible in her chambers. “I said, ‘Well, hold on, I’ll get you a Bible.’”
She came back out and, together, they read John 3:16.
Guyger then caught the judge off guard when she asked for a hug. After briefly hesitating, Kemp hugged Guyger and further encouraged her.
For this the Judge is being criticized. “It’s way out of bounds,” said Andrew L. Seidel, a lawyer with the FFRF. Actually, it sounds like we need more judges like Tammy Kemp.
Amber Guyger’s question to Judge Kemp is worth pondering, “Can my life have purpose” after being convicted of murder? After serving time in prison? After a failure that took the life of an innocent man?
I don’t know what will happen to Guyger, but she has been exposed to a message of faith that can reshape her life and furnish hope for her future.
I do know this. God can use failures to accomplish His purpose. All of God’s great men and women made mistakes. Fell short of the mark. And at some point failed.
Abraham lied. Jacob deceived. Moses murdered. Samson had a weakness for women. Eli was a poor parent. David committed adultery. Peter denied Jesus. Thomas doubted. And Saul was a persecutor of Christians before he was converted and became the apostle Paul.
All of these failed. But they had one thing in common. They never quit. They corrected their mistakes. Maintained their faith in God. And kept their spiritual focus.
I also know that all of us have failed at times. Maybe not as egregiously as Guyger by committing murder. But “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).
In Christ, however, we can find forgiveness. Learn God’s will for our lives. Discover our purpose. And reform the direction of our lives.
The Bible is clear about God’s purpose for us. The apostle Paul affirms that He has “predestinated us according to His purpose.” It is an eternal purpose. His purpose for us is in Christ. And that purpose issues itself in a new life (Eph 1:11; 2:10; 3:10-11). When we come to understand that life is not all about us, but all about Him, we can see more clearly His purpose and be empowered by it.
When we accept and embrace God’s purpose for our lives we discover true meaning. We find significance. We can overcome past failures. And not only forgive ourselves but make a difference in the lives of others.
What Brandt Jean and Judge Kemp offered Amber Guyer ought to be celebrated. And modeled. It can significantly alter the direction of her broken life.
Oliver Wendell Holmes expressed it this way, “The great thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving.”
What about you? Where are you headed? What is your purpose? And will you allow God to aid you in overcoming your failures?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman