By now, you’ve seen the courtroom video of 18-year-old Brandt Jean publicly forgiving former police officer Amber Guyger for shooting and killing his brother last year in Dallas.
Guyger’s account of what happened that fateful night is that she came into an apartment she thought was hers and shot a person she thought was a home invader; turns out the apartment was actually not Guyger’s and the man she shot, Botham Jean, was simply enjoying a bowl of ice cream in his own home.
The fact that Guyger is white and Jean is black has turned the tragedy into a racial issue, with many believing that Guyger only shot her neighbor because he is black and that Guyger got a lighter sentence than she should have because of her race and the race of the man she shot. The racial aspect of the story, of course, can be based on speculation only, but, for those who see racism in nearly everything, speculation is more than enough to continue the narrative.
I do not know much about Brandt Jean, but I can tell, simply by listening to his words caught on camera, that he is a born again Christian.
This is important when looking at this story, because, while a non-Christian is capable of offering forgiveness as well, Jesus’s words to forgive others so that you may be forgiven by God in heaven (Mark 11:25) are words he preached specifically to his followers.
Jesus expects those who follow him to be people who forgive. How could he ask such a difficult thing of us? Because he has forgiven us of much more than he will ever ask us to forgive. Our sins put Jesus, the son of God in human flesh who never sinned one time, on the cross, where he suffered as a substitute for us in order that God’s wrath against us might be satisfied in him.
No matter what we have to forgive another human being, it cannot match the forgiveness we Christians have already received. The lesson we learn in Jesus’s parable about the unforgiving debtor in Matthew 18 is given in the form of a question: “Should not you have… mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”
When Brandt Jean offered forgiveness to Amber Guyger, he was simply obeying the commands of the one he calls Lord and Savior. A Christian follows his master — the master is not church tradition, feelings or the Facebook community. The master is Jesus.
When Brandt Jean offered that forgiveness, he wasn’t letting Amber Guyger “off the hook” for the sin she had committed. We humans have no power to do that. Instead, he was giving Jesus control of the hook, in effect saying, “Amber, you no longer owe me a debt. I am freeing you of what you owe me. You must consider, however, that a debt is still owed. You can either try to pay that debt yourself (unsuccessfully, and with horrific consequences) or accept that Jesus already paid that debt for you. I do not like what you did — in fact, I hate it. I understand, though, that you are sinner just like me, and just like me, the forgiveness you really need comes from God and is available to you, if you’ll take it.”
Accusations being spewed out there that Jean is some kind of a sellout, that he’s trying to appease white America, that he’s been conditioned to do what he did, that he was operating from an illogical mind-state are the exact accusations I’d expect from a lost person who doesn’t have the mind of Christ. Forgiveness of this magnitude is unthinkable for the depraved mind that is only focused on revenge, victimization and human “justice” — to that mind, forgiveness like this makes no sense.
For the Christian though, such an act of forgiveness is a beautiful picture of the difference Christ can make in a person’s heart and, ultimately, a beautiful picture of what Christ has done for us.
Brandt Jean forgave because of the leading of the Holy Spirit within him and because of the genuine love that God has given him. Such forgiveness is not natural, but it doesn’t have to be — it is a supernatural act that God does through us, for our good and for His glory. I applaud and will continue to pray for this man of courage and love; if you are a Christian, so should you.