“I love you just like anyone else and I’m not going to hope you rot and die,” Brandt Jean told Amber Guyger when he took the witness stand.”
“I personally want the best for you. I wasn’t going to say this in front of my family, I don’t even want you to go to jail,” Jean continued. “I know if you go to God and ask him he will forgive you.”
Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot described Brandt Jean’s compassion toward Guyger as “an extraordinary act of healing and forgiveness.” Creuzot said that in his 37 years of practicing law , “I never saw anything like that.”
What makes the 18-year-old Brandt Jean’s gesture so incredible is that Amber Guyger, a white woman, shot and killed his 27-year-old brother, Botham Jean, a black man.
This tragic shooting occurred on the evening of September 6, 2018, when Guyger, a former Dallas police officer, was returning home from a long day at work. She claimed that she mistakenly entered Jean’s apartment thinking it was her own.
When Guyger opened the door and saw a “silhouette figure” in the dark apartment she feared for her life. Guyger said Jean walked toward her after she asked to see his hands. She fired two shots. By her own admission, she was shooting to kill.
When the Jury reached their unanimous decision, Guyger who appeared to be incredibly remorseful was convicted of murder, instead of manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
While the family was obviously distraught and had hoped for a longer sentence, Jean’s mother, Allison, said she would accept the jury’s decision and try to move on.
Before leaving the witness stand, the young Jean told Guyger, “I think giving your life to Christ is the best thing Botham would want for you.” He then asked Judge Tammy Kemp if he could give Guyger a hug; a request the judge granted. As the two embraced in front of the judge’s bench, Guyger broke into tears.
Forgiveness. It’s just a Bible concept until we’re called upon to practice it. Under normal conditions forgiveness can be challenging, let alone under extreme circumstances like the Jean family has been forced to endure.
But the Jean’s are Christians–members of the Dallas West Church of Christ. And on a very public stage, they exhibited grace, kindness, compassion and forgiveness beyond a measure that is even imaginable for most of us.
I’m reminded of the discussion that Jesus had with the apostles in Matthew 18 regarding forgiveness. Peter asked, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Jesus responded, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
While not a mathematical equation, Jesus is teaching what most would consider an extreme attitude of forgiveness. Yet, the Bible reminds us that God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness is unlimited. Unrestricted. And unending. If He continually forgives us, even when we have egregiously sinned, we ought to be willing to forgive others.
In fact, Jesus issued this sober warning regarding forgiveness. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt 6:14-15)
In other words, as George Muller expressed it, “He who fails to forgive others burns the bridge over which he must walk himself.”
When Dallas County Assistant District Attorney LaQuita Long concluded the prosecutions’ arguments for the state, she ended with this quote from Botham Jean’s minister at his funeral last year. “To the defendant, he was just a silhouette in a room. To everyone who knew Bo, he was the brightest light in the room.”
It appears that his brother, Brandt in his magnanimous manifestation of forgiveness is reflecting the same light.
May, we too, walk in the light of God’s love and extend forgiveness to all who need it.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman