Forgive like Jesus

I don’t know how many people have followed the trial of Amber Guyger; I had not until today when I saw the reaction of Brandt Jean. For those who might not know Amber was convicted of killing Brandt’s brother Botham. In a somewhat surprising move, and at the sentencing hearing, Brandt extended forgiveness and a hug to Amber. As I watched the video I was struck at how difficult the situation was for this young man, and yet how confidently he presented his faith. His is the statement of a person who has truly met forgiveness and truly offered it. Brandt does not sweep Amber’s actions under the rug, he confronts the actions and offers the sincerest hope that her life will be radically changed to the point she can be integrated into society.

This is forgiveness and it is also a fundamental expression of Christian justice. The 10 year sentence Amber received is American justice. Our Justice stipulates a specific penalty for a specific wrong. But God’s justice, the justice Brandt offered, is forgiveness which leads to the restoration of the societal relationships harmed by actions. Brandt wanted to see Amber in a position that she could be reintegrated into society. This is the Christian hope because this is the same pardon the Christian receives.

I celebrate Brandt’s actions, I celebrate his commitment to his faith and I hope every American Christian sees this video and takes time to ponder exactly what forgiveness means. Brandt has relinquished any claim he had over Amber, any hatred, any malice, any vindication. This is a very weighty matter. As I watched the video I asked myself how ready I would be to so easily forgive my brother’s killer. I watched Brandt struggle; he appeared to be trying to stop himself from saying what he knew he needed to say. I hope that I am in such situations where forgiveness is required of me I can listen so well to the Spirit of God and the message of forgiveness.

I am troubled because I have heard commentators question Brandt for forgiving Amber so soon. I think this is because they do not understand the love of Jesus so well as Brandt does. They want punishment before forgiveness. I find this sentiment often in America, we want a person to touch the pain they have caused before we offer forgiveness. But Brandt is not offering a restored relationship per se. He is offering her the opportunity to begin the process of restoration as she admits to the wrongs she has done and begins to work with God in transforming her life. I thank God that I have not had to suffer as punishment for the wrongs I have done. God has offered me forgiveness and the opportunity to change without the crime and punishment forgiveness offered by the American judicial system. I commend Brandt for offering to stand in the place of God and pronounce his personal forgiveness as an extension of God’s.

I also pray for Brandt. I have found in my own life forgiveness is sometimes an ongoing process. I can forgive a wrong done today, but if I am not careful I find myself replaying that wrong later and allowing it to stir up negative feelings. I pray that a community will surround him and cheer him; I pray these people will help him daily forgive Amber. This is not a simple process, one day he is likely to wake up and think about his brother’s absence. On those days he needs a community to help him forgive and to help him love her. Jesus taught his followers to pray, “forgive us as we forgive”, and I trust much has been forgiven because of Brandt’s actions.

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