On September 6, 2018, Amber Guyger—an off-duty patrol officer in Dallas—entered the apartment of 26-year-old accountant Botham Jean. She later said she thought it was her own apartment and mistook Jean for a burglar, shooting and killing him.
One year later, on October 1, 2019, she was found guilty of murder. On October 2, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Botham Jean’s brother Brandt was allowed to give a victim-impact statement, and he addressed Amber Guyer directly. Asking to hug, and then embracing your brother’s murderer after forgiving her publicly. It’s totally antithetical to human nature, so how does that happen?
His carefully chosen words, his cautiously articulated statement made it abundantly clear what made this moment possible: the inexplicable work of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside a regenerated, born-again heart. Brandt made it very clear that his peace in the midst of grief came through Christ, and she could find the same peace for her guilt only in Christ.
When we Christians say the only hope for America is Jesus, this is what we mean. Or it’s what we should mean.
The result was a beautiful Christian testimony—truly salt and light in a dark and twisted world.
I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past. Each and every one of us may have done something that we’re not supposed to do. If you truly are sorry, I know, I can speak for myself, I, I forgive you.
And I know if you got to God and ask Him, He will forgive you. And I don’t think anyone can sit, again I’m speaking for myself not even on behalf of my family. 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 personally want the best for you, and I wasn’t gonna 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 for you. And the best would be give your life to Christ. I’m not gonna 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.
I don’t know if this is possible, but can I, can I give her a hug please? Please?
Receiving permission, Brandt embraced Guyger, who began sobbing. The powerful moment even touched Judge Tammy Kemp who can be seen wiping away tears in the background.
In fact, Kemp was so moved, she stepped off the bench and retrieved her personal Bible from her chambers. Handing the Bible to Guyger, Kemp said, “You haven’t done so much that you can’t be forgiven.” She then read John 3:16, and said, “You haven’t done as much as you think you have, and you can be forgiven. You did something bad in one moment in time. What you do now matters.”
It was another remarkable moment in a truly remarkable day. On a day when justice was served, the hope of forgiveness and reconciliation brought together a devastated family and a divided community.
But not everyone was happy about the compassion and mercy demonstrated in the courtroom.
On Thursday, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), poured cold water on the judge’s display of kindness by filing a formal complaint with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, alleging Judge Kemp “overstepped” her judicial authority by giving Guyer a Bible.
At a time when our nation is fractured, aren’t such moments of grace and reconciliation exactly what we need more of?
Speaking to reporters after the trial, Bertram Jean, Botham’s father, also forgave his son’s convicted killer.
In similar situations over the last few years, the interplay of race and police authority have triggered protests and riots and threatened to destroy the social fabric of many communities. However, because of the courageous and gracious response of the Jean family and Judge Kemp, the community in Dallas has begun to heal.
In her piece (read it all in context) in EEW Magazine Online, “Why the position of Christians condemning the forgiveness of Amber Guyger is indefensible”, Rebecca Johnson writes from a Christian women of color’s perspective:
White, racist police officers are still brutalizing and killing black unarmed women, men, and children, with impunity. In rare, shocking cases, like this one, when they are convicted of a crime, they receive little to no jail time.
Botham Jean’s life was stolen, and I hear you saying we have a right to be mad.
Yes, we do.
But what about withholding forgiveness and condemning the victim’s brother for extending grace and working to heal from his unimaginable pain?
Is it biblically-sound to support a mindset that says, I don’t forgive you because you don’t deserve my forgiveness?
Is it a tenet of our faith that forgiveness must only be offered to the deserving? Can we be followers of Jesus’ teachings and put love, mercy, and compassion on the backburner?
Here’s what I know for sure. We did not and still do not deserve forgiveness. Yet Christ gave it, and we are most like Him when we extend that same forgiveness.
This is the gospel.
This is the radical grace of which we are beneficiaries. There is no out clause in Scripture when it comes to offering forgiveness if the crime is too heinous. Such a loophole does not exist to justify hatred and the willful withholding of forgiveness.
In our flesh, we will struggle at times to forgive. We are human, and that is to be expected. But to consciously and stubbornly deny forgiveness to offending parties and condemn Jean’s forgiveness of Guyger is antithetical to the gospel.
Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
I fear that some claiming to be Christians while refusing to follow Christ’s principles of forgiveness and lavish love, will get to the pearly gates and realize too late, as Amber Guyger did, that they are at the wrong house.
I know you may be angry and justifiably so. However, if you are condemning the forgiveness of Guyger, that position, according to the word of God, is indefensible.
True disciples of Jesus are led by the Holy Spirit, who empowers us all to overcome our old nature and produce the righteous fruit of forgiveness and love. You cannot do this on your own, but through Christ, this is possible.
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” ~Galatians 2:20 (NLT)
[Posted with Permissions by The Gospel Coalition] [Additional excerpts are from David Closson’s post “Anti-Religion Group Rains on Court’s Parade of Forgiveness“]
Thanks for reading!