Amber Guyger is a former Dallas police officer who has been found guilty of murdering Botham Jean. The case became a national story because of the circumstances surrounding the crime, which included allegations of racism. Guyger is white and was a police officer; Botham Jean was an African American. Guyger shot and killed him in his own home—alleging that she had mistakenly entered the wrong apartment and thought he was a burglar.
Guyger has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Many people outside the courtroom have decried the sentence, insisting that it is far too lenient. Inside the courtroom, another voice was heard, from the brother of Botham Jean, Brandt. He gave a statement where he forgave Amber Guyger and explained that he did not wish her any harm. He instead encouraged her to look to Christ. Brandt Jean looked at Guyger and told her that he loved her. He then asked the Judge if he could approach Guyger and give her a hug.
It is worth taking 4 minutes to watch and listen to Brandt Jean’s words. The weeping in the courtroom is palpable, with even the Judge wiping tears from her eyes.
According to CNN, shortly afterwards the Judge, Tammy Kemp, handed Guyger a Bible to take with her, saying,
“You can have mine. I have three or four more at home,” the judge said. “This is the one I use every day. This is your job for the next month. It says right here. John 3:16. And this is where you start. ‘For God so loved the world…'”
Out of evil and tremendous sadness has come an extraordinary act of grace and kindness. Brandt Jean’s actions in that courtroom represent the heart of the Christian message, which is about undeserved forgiveness and reconciliation.
The Gospel of Luke records while Jesus hung on the cross, he cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
The Apostles’ echoed his words in their own:
In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7)
Christianity is often portrayed as being foolish, stupid and even evil. In our wisdom, we have decided that we no longer require the teaching and habits of the Christian faith. Many of our cultural spokespeople are trying to banish Christian thinking from the public square, as if it were a virus that needed to be contained or inoculated-against. Certainly, some Christians give Christianity a bad wrap. Sometimes Christians forget what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about. But what a timely reminder Brandt Jean gives both Christians and non-Christians of real Christianity.
The first Christians also knew about this tendency to forgetfulness. Paul once wrote:
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1Tim 1:15)
Our world doesn’t need to hear less of this Divine forgiveness. In this age of constant rage and anger and malice, the message offered by Brandt to the woman who murdered his brother is both extraordinary and subversive and offers us a healing antidote.
The Psalmist captured the human condition well when he pleaded with God,
“If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” (Psalm 130)
I thank God for Divine forgiveness, and for the beautiful and powerful way in which Brandt Jean has today given this ancient Gospel renewed clarity and pertinence.
Further extraordinary and beautiful scenes: here is the video of Judge tammy Kemp embracing Amber Guyger following the trial and giving her own Bible for Guyger to keep.