The younger brother of a man who was shot by a former Dallas Police officer stunned the world when, instead of condemning Botham Jean’s killer for shooting him in his own apartment by mistake, said something so outrageous, so ridiculous, so weird, that he must have been an authentic believer in Jesus Christ.
What did Brandt Jean say to Amber Guyger in the courtroom after she was sentenced to ten years in prison for murder?
“I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past…if you truly are sorry…I forgive you, and I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. I love you just like anyone else. I personally want the best for you. I don’t even want you to go to jail; I want the best for you. And the best would be to give your life to Christ. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do. Again, I love you…and I don’t wish anything bad on you.”
What Brandt said was nothing short of supernatural. It makes no human sense at all. Unconditional forgiveness? That’s crazy!
King Louis of France said, “Nothing smells so sweet as the dead body of your enemy.”
Author Heinrich Heine declared, “We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.”
Forgiveness is not natural, yet nothing characterizes the new nature of a born-again believer more than forgiveness, because nothing characterized the nature of our Lord and Savior more than forgiveness. As Jesus hung on the cross—nailed there, hands and feet—after being scourged, beaten and mocked for crimes he did not commit, his last words to his murderers were, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:24)
“Forgive”: to give up resentment against or the desire to punish; to stop being angry with; to pardon. To give up all claim to punish; to overlook.
That’s what Brandt Jean did.
That’s what an Amish community did in 2006 when a shooter killed ten young girls execution-style in their own one room schoolhouse.
The Christian Science Monitor reported: “As the father of a slain daughter explained, ‘Our forgiveness was not our words, it was what we did.’ Members of the community visited the gunman’s widow at her home with food and flowers and hugged members of his family. There were a few words, but it was primarily their hugs, gifts, and mere presence – acts of grace – that communicated Amish forgiveness. Of the 75 people at the killer’s burial, about half were Amish, including parents who had buried their own children a day or so before. Amish people also contributed to a fund for the shooter’s family.”
That’s what Corrie ten Boom did after she spoke on forgiveness in Germany after World War 2, where her family perished at the hands of Nazis.
A former guard at a concentration camp came up to her afterward and said, “You mentioned Ravensbruck. I was a guard there. But since that time, I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein, will you forgive me?” He extended his hand to the woman whose sister died in that camp. Could she forgive him?
She wrote, “It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I ever had to do. For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’ ”
“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’
“‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner.”
“True forgivers do not pretend they don’t suffer,” said Louis Smedes. “They do not pretend the wrong doesn’t matter much. You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and you can wish them well.”
“I personally want the best for you,” said Brandt Jean, who not only forgave his brother’s murderer in the court room that day, but then asked the judge if he could do something else: “I don’t know if it’s possible, but, can I give her a hug please? Please?”
After the judge granted his request, Amber Guyger ran to Brandt.
For a full minute he embraced her with the arms of Jesus.