Synopsis: Change of Heart begins with tragedy: the murder of Jeanne Bishop’s sister Nancy, along with Nancy’s husband and their unborn child, in their home some twenty-five years ago. In her dying moments, Nancy wrote a message in her own blood at the crime scene: a heart shape and the letter “u,” last words of love.
When the killer, a local teenager, was arrested for the murders, he denied responsibility for the crime and showed no remorse. After the murderer was tried, convicted and sentenced, Bishop determined to forgive and then forget him. Bishop became a public defender, an outspoken opponent of capital punishment, and a supporter of the sentence her sister’s killer received: juvenile life without the possibility of parole. All the while, she never once spoke the name of her sister’s killer aloud, never tried to engage with him.
Then she met a law professor who gave her a book espousing a radical idea: that as Christians, we have an obligation to work to reconcile with those who have harmed us. Bishop challenged the book’s author about that idea, and was challenged in turn to take seriously the prayer of Jesus on the cross and move beyond simple forgiveness to the hard work of personal reconciliation.
Change of Heart is the story of that uneven journey to confronting and reconciling with a murderer. The book takes on the larger issues of restorative justice, life sentences, and incarceration in the criminal justice system. It unflinchingly acknowledges the personal cost of advocating for mercy for people convicted of serious crimes.
In the end, the book is a story of moving beyond mere forgiveness to the deeper waters of redemption and grace.
Review: This was a hard book to read at times because of the sad stories interwoven, but it was an excellent read. Jeanne is open and honest about her struggles on this journey, and I really appreciated that. This book totally changed my opinion on the death penalty and opened my eyes to restorative justice. It reminded me that God loves every criminal as much as He loves me and I should be praying for and extending mercy to others as well as forgiveness. I cannot imagine living through this kind of tragedy. God, keep my heart soft and keep me from hating my enemies. This book will challenge you. I highly recommend it!
I was given a free copy of this book to review.