Remarkable Forgiveness

A horrible tragedy occurred on September 6, 2018. That night, Amber Guyer, an off-duty police officer in Dallas, TX, entered the apartment of Botham Jean and then shot and killed him. Guyer says she made a huge mistake, thinking Jean’s apartment was really her own. This led to the even bigger mistake of deciding the 26-year-old accountant was a burglar or someone wanting to harm her. The fact Guyer is a white police officer, while Botham Jean was a young black man increased both public scrutiny and volatility surrounding the case. On October 1, 2019, Guyer was convicted of second-degree murder. The next day she was back in the courtroom to receive her sentence. Then something truly remarkable occurred. As part of the sentencing process, Botham Jean’s brother was allowed to give a victim-impact statement. The very composed, 18-year old spoke words that quickly went viral on the internet and shocked many. He spoke directly to Guyer, the woman who killed his brother. My summary of what Brandt Jean said: I forgive you. Here are his actual words to Amber Guyer:

“If you truly are sorry, I can speak for myself, I forgive. And I know if you go to God and ask him, He will forgive you. And I don’t think anyone can say it—again I’m speaking for myself—but I love you just like anyone else. And I’m not gonna say ‘I hope you rot and die just like my brother did,’ but I presently want the best for you. And I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do. And the best would be to give your life to Christ. I’m not going to say anything else. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do. Again, I love you as a person and I don’t wish anything bad on you.”

Then, apparently addressing the Judge, Brandt Jean said, “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug, please? Please?” Receiving permission, he then approaches Guyer and they tearfully embrace each other.

The words Brandt Jean spoke that day, plus his actions, are indeed remarkable. When someone does great harm to us it is only natural to be angry and desire vengeance. Yet, the Bible teaches that our experience of God’s forgiveness through Jesus enables us to do something very unnatural. By His grace we are able to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. (Matthew 5:44) We are instructed to ask God to forgive us as we forgive others, implying that is something we are doing on a regular basis.   The Lord commands us not to seek revenge, but instead trust the Lord to bring about true and ultimate justice. (Romans 12:19)

Brandt’s mother, Allison Jean, doesn’t fully share her son’s feelings about Amber Guyer.  While acknowledging the importance of forgiveness, she insists justice requires that Amber Guyer face consequences for killing her older son. Indeed, forgiveness and a desire for justice are not mutually exclusive. While we are called to forgive those who wrong us, it is also appropriate to desire that the government fulfill its God-given role of rewarding good and punishing evil. (Romans 13:4)  Yet, this does not diminish what Brandt Jean said and did.  Having experienced God’s amazing, completely undeserved, grace in his life, he is willing to show that same type of grace to a woman in desperate need of that grace. This a model those who profess to trust and follow Jesus should seek to follow.  The world will be a better place if we do.  

Rev. Dan Erickson, Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church

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