This week we have seen circulating around the internet the footage of Brandt Jean offering his forgiveness to Amber Guyger, the woman who murdered his brother Botham. You can view footage of Mr. Jean’s impact statement here:
I want to say a few things about this act of grace. First, it is extraordinary. Let me say this again another way. Brandt Jean’s act of forgiveness is not normal, it is not reasonable, and it is not a standard of behavior we should expect of anyone, let alone someone who has suffered so horribly. Under no circumstances should we normalize Mr. Jean’s level of forgiveness or his willingness to seek reconciliation with Amber Guyger. To do so would be to cheapen the significance of his grace, and risks us engaging in the crime of pressuring other victims to offer similarly immediate and complete forgiveness of those who have done them harm.
The abnormality of Brandt Jean’s forgiveness is exactly the quality that should inspire us. It is the fruit of of a lifetime of faith supported by his family and his church community. It comes from contemplating and trusting in the core belief of our Christian teaching: that God continually seeks reconciliation with all of us broken people in this broken world, and that with true repentance and trust in Jesus, God will always offer us divine grace and forgiveness for our sin. This is the source of the deep peace in Brandt Jean’s heart that freed him enough from his own grief to offer comfort to his brother’s murderer.
Such extraordinary graciousness does not burst forth from any human being without some kind of spiritual practice. It comes from patient study, prayer, worship, and devotion. Like any ability, a profoundly loving heart must be cultivated and nurtured. It requires commitment and discipline, patience and persistence. We are made in the image of God, but to emulate God we must strive. To be followers of Jesus, we must strive to be like Jesus. To become adept, we must practice
This is the story of religious life that we never ever see in the media until this week. Usually, the news lay bare the crimes, the greed, and the hypocrisy in our religious institutions. These things are real and must be faced. But here at last in Brandt Jean we have the other side of the story of religious life, every bit as shocking and riveting as the church’s shame—the power of religious faith to transform our lives and ourselves for the better. Brandt Jean’s forgiveness was his testimony to the redeeming, life-changing power of Jesus Christ. Through it he called Amber Guyger—and all of us—to turn to God and receive the grace and the peace that passes all understanding.