Many of you know that my sister was murdered earlier this year. Today her killer was sentenced. Although I was unable to attend the sentencing, I was able to write a victim impact statement to be read to her killer. I only share this in hopes that it may be an encouragement to some of you as we think through how to respond in both love and justice to those who have committed great evil against us.
It's doubtful that we'll ever get to meet, so let me begin by introducing myself. My name is Hopson Boutot. Julia Wickline was my sister, born exactly two years and seven days before me. I could tell you many stories about my sister that could help you to understand what she meant to me and all those who loved her, but I do not believe that is what you really need to hear.
Julia's value to me and to this world was deeper than her personal contributions. Her value was more than her character, greater than her experiences, broader than the good she accomplished on her best days. Julia's value was not rooted in her, but in her Creator.
The Bible says that God created humans in His own image (Genesis 1:27). Julia mattered because her Creator matters. Julia mattered--regardless of what she did or didn't do in this life--because she was created to display something of the beauty and grandeur of a holy and magnificent God, a being far more glorious than most of us can even begin to imagine.
Which means what you did on February 19 was more staggering and vicious than you probably realize. You did not merely end a young woman's life. You extinguished a life that was created by the One who whispers and galaxies appear. You stole something from the King of the Universe.
I do not say that to add to your guilt and shame, but to help you to see the guilt that you already carry, whether you realize it or not. I can only imagine the range of emotions that you're experiencing now as you prepare to face the penalty for your crimes. Perhaps your heart is hardened and embittered. Perhaps you feel broken and ashamed. Perhaps you bounce back and forth between the two, or perhaps it's something else entirely.
But my guess is, regardless of how you feel you may not have truly reckoned with the seriousness of your crimes. You have not only sinned against Julia, her family, and her friends. You have sinned against a holy and vengeful God. Hebrews 10:31 is clear that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.
But that's not the end of the story, Mr. __________. The same God who created Julia in His image also created you. You too bear His image. You too were meant to reflect His glory. You too are precious and valuable in His sight. And again, it's not what you do or don't do that makes you valuable. Your value is connected to God's glory, not your own.
And because this God is so great, He sent His Son to die for sinners. Even for murderers. The Bible says that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.
At the end of the day you will face the sentence for your crime. I hope it will be just. I hope you will never have another chance to snuff out a life again. But I do not want you to perish, Mr. __________. I hope that you will run to Jesus, the One who died in your place, and trust in His death on your behalf. I hope you will turn from your sin against a holy God and trust in the One who died so that you could live.