In a stunning show of grace and with impressive boldness, Brandt Jean, brother of the late Botham Jean, forgave and shared the Gospel with his brother’s killer, Amber Guyger, during his victim impact statement.
“I forgive you and I know if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you. I’m speaking for myself, not even on behalf of my family, but I love you just like anyone else. I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did, but I personally want the best for you, and I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family and everyone – but I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do. And the best would be give your life to Christ.
“I’m not going to say anything else. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do. Again, I love you as a person and I don’t wish anything bad on you. I don’t know if this is possible but can I give her a hug, please? Please?”
On Good Morning America, Jean talked about his interaction with Guyger while speaking with ABC’s Michael Strahan.
“I just told her that I forgave her, and with usual instances, the words mean something, but I felt like that wasn’t enough. [The hug] was just my gesture. It was my decision of letting her know that I truly forgive her. That was just my way – no one else’s way, my decision – my way of letting her know that she is truly forgiven. We don’t know if she may commit suicide in the future. We don’t know what’s going to happen, we don’t know. I just feel like I had to get that point across to her…
“Each and everyone has steps to get towards actually forgiving. I probably went through those faster than other people. Some people went through them faster than me. If you are trying to forgive her, understand that she is a human being. She still deserves love. She made a mistake that she probably truly regrets, so if you want to forgive her, just understand that God forgave you. I know that every time I ask God for forgiveness, He forgives me, so who am I to not forgive someone who asks. I waited one year to hear ‘I’m sorry’ and I’m grateful for that, and that’s why I forgive her.”
“This is what you have to do to set yourself free. I didn’t really plan on living the rest of my life hating this woman. I know that there’s something called peace of mind. That’s the type of stuff you have to do to have peace of mind. That’s why wake up happy in the morning. That is why I want to live happy later on in my life.”
Amazingly, there are professing Christians unhappy with Jean for forgiving and sharing the Gospel. The worst example is Talbert Swan, a pastor and president of the NAACP of Springfield, MA, who wrote that Jean’s words and actions are indicative of someone with the mentality of a slave, accusing Jean of having “post traumatic slavery syndrome.” Anyone attending a church led by a man who not only doesn’t rejoice in the Gospel going forth but viciously and unrepentantly slanders a humble proclaimer of the Gospel as Swan has done to Jean needs to find a different church.
On MSNBC, Al Sharpton said he thinks Jean was forgiving for purely selfish reasons. “I understood what that young man was doing. He did that statement for him, not for her, to show that he was a real Christian,” Sharpton said.
Sharpton is inaccurately and despicably projecting his own reasons for forgiveness onto Jean. Christians like Jean forgive because of their duty to obey Christ, to bring the joy and peace of our Lord into conflict with the selfish actions of the worldly. It’s true that a side-effect of obedience to Christ is peace of mind and soul that surpasses understanding and it’s true that Jean mentioned this in the interview, but that’s not why we forgive. Jean understands that and articulated it well. Sharpton doesn’t.
Beyond Sharpton and Swan’s repulsive takes, there was more widespread concern from social justice advocates that attention given to Jean’s forgiveness and evangelism would overshadow calls from other family members for correction of what they saw as corruption of the investigation by Dallas PD and immoral training of officers to aim for the heart. Fair enough. Justice and mercy should never be pitted against one another. Both are crucial to the Christian life. If there were officers who withheld evidence to protect their coworker, they should be prosecuted. If it’s true that Dallas PD trains officers to aim for the heart, that depraved practice must be immediately abolished and the authors of that practice fired.
Still, most of the writers of these articles (the most prominent being Jemar Tisby’s at the Washington Post) showed no rejoicing at the Gospel being proclaimed. The first reaction of someone indwelt with the Holy Spirit watching Jean proclaim the Gospel should be rejoicing, as we should at any proclamation of the message of salvation. That’s not the only appropriate reaction, but it should be the first.
The Gospel is what the Brandt Jean story is about. Let’s not use that story sinfully to box out from the conversation needed attention on corruption if there was any, but let’s rejoice at the beauty of what just happened without sinfully valuing our own agendas more than the Gospel.