A viral video about forgiveness resurfaced on my Instagram feed last December.
In a raw and moving act, Brandt Jean hugged Amber Guyger, moments after she was convicted of killing his brother in a tragic shooting.
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In 2018, Guyger – an off-duty Dallas police officer – had entered the wrong apartment. Mistaking resident Botham Jean for an intruder in her own house, she shot him dead, claiming self-defense.
The younger Brandt displayed tremendous grace as he addressed Guyger at the sentence hearing.
“If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you,” he said.
This was a courtroom drama of a different kind, sanguine and unfiltered.
Back when racial tensions and police brutality were at a slow boil in America, the story of Guyger, a white woman, and Jean, a black man, is now a mere footnote in the wake of the Black Lives Matter flashpoint in 2020.
Despite much division and judgement left to ponder, there was equally plenty of reconciliation and humanity laid bare in that courtroom.
Brandt Jean’s public display of forgiveness as well as his urging for Guyger to turn to Christ, struck nerves.
Forgiveness never appeared more compassionate.
Forgiveness As A Service
In Matthew Chapter 18:21-22, Peter went to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus replied, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
An unfathomable number of times, it seems, if we go by bible scripture.
Lest not we forget, we are born sinners but by God’s forgiveness we are renewed. On the cross, moments before his expiration, Jesus even pleaded for our forgiveness.
Forgiveness As A Release
We all carry burdens and hold in debt others who have wronged us.
As we wade through all the conflicting feelings and the passage of time to get to a place of dignity and peace, could that resolve have instead been applied to forgive and free us from that misery?
Brandt Jean’s subsequent statement to Guyger “I want the best for you” exemplifies the true power of forgiveness.
How much courage it took for an 18-year-old to utter those words, I will never know.
But once spoken, the senseless killing of his brother by Guyger no longer had the power to emotionally affect Jean. He was freed.
Forgiveness As An Attitude
Dredging up old memories, rehashing hurt feelings and clinging onto emotional baggage only deepens the ruptures within us.
Customary to demand contrition before forgiveness – arbitrary yardsticks that we bind ourselves to – can we similarly forgive ourselves for such foolishness?
Our own failures and shortcomings would likewise have caused hurt and distress to others.
Grief, sadness, love and death are the emotional highs and lows that inform our human existence.
If anything, Brandt Jean has shown that perhaps we need to reconsider the notion of forgiveness as an act of grace.
Rather, it ought to be an attitude to embrace as we begin the year anew.