The tragic killing of Botham Jean at the hands of former Dallas Police Officer, Amber Guyger, and the public’s response to Jean’s family’s forgiveness of Guyger not only helps us understand the true meaning of forgiveness, but it shows us how eager we as a society are to perpetuate division and animosity to justify a generational, unfaltering hatred stemming from historical injustice. Little do we know, Brandt Jean's exercise in what seems to be impossible forgiveness, shows us that this historical injustice could be a present opportunity to unlocking a new era of forgiveness and unity in America.
I was baffled at some of the social media posts I observed in response to Brandt Jean, Botham Jean’s younger brother’s, forgiveness and kindness towards Guyger in the courtroom where she was found guilty of murder. My surprise stems from the fact that the people who had some of the nastiest, hateful things to say about this beautiful moment were educated, self-proclaimed Christians, studied theologians, and in most cases, ministers of the gospel.
I would expect divisive and ignorant responses from the same people that are offended when someone says ‘All Lives Matter’ or that ‘racism isn’t the biggest issue facing black people in America,’ but when Christian leadership in the black community are the ones leading the charge to perpetuate exclusion and polarity instead of inclusion and clemency, that has me concerned and somewhat discouraged. It reminds me of frauds like Al Sharpton, a racial pimp posing as a leader, profiting off of the pain of those who came before him. The worst types of Christian leaders are the ones who use their positions of spiritual authority to disseminate their personal partisan views. James 3:1 warns Christian teachers and leaders by saying,
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
As I scanned through the comment section on TheShadeRoom’s Instagram page I naturally shook my head in disbelief by some of the things being said. Some were accusing Brandt, and the family at large, of being paid off by the white man to show forgiveness. Some were making disparaging comments towards the young man accusing him of being an Uncle Tom and a Coon. Others made clear that they would have taken part in a courtroom melee if it were them in his position. It became apparent that the idea of forgiveness is one that is unrealistic for many people—a foreign idea, only plausible in a Utopian setting.
As a practicing Christian, I, like Vice President Pence, consider myself a Christian before I am a Conservative. What does that mean? It means that my values are informed by my Christian beliefs not my political affiliation. Loving your enemy, forgiving those who have wronged you, displaying humility and kindness to others, aren’t simply words written in an old book, they are traits we strive to put into practice daily. Brandt Jean is a living example of those values. It may be easy for me to say I would do the same thing, but looking at the murderer of someone I love in the eyes and telling them that I forgive them, and meaning it, takes fortitude naturally beyond my reach. To say, “I forgive you for what you have taken from me,” rather than a myriad of other less desirable words, takes a strength many of us have yet to achieve.
The words ‘I forgive you’ and ‘I love you’ came from the trembling lips of Brandt to his brother’s murderer. He stated that he did not want her imprisoned and wanted the best for her. What a foreign concept to our tribal, and hateful generation. In the emotional courtroom the Judge granted Brandt an opportunity to embrace Guyger. This sort of humility and selflessness is alien to our entitled and selfish society which helps explain the public response that included confusion and castigation.
In life we are faced with different opportunities. Opportunities to overcome, opportunities to strive, and opportunities to be leaders and make things right. How many times do we squander opportunities to unify by giving into our emotion and anger? How many times do we fuel the fire of divisiveness in attempts to satisfy the insatiable masses on social media desperately looking for a reason to hate those different from themselves? Brandt Jean is a free man. And because of his forgiveness of Amber Guyger, despite her sentence of 10 years in prison, she is a free woman. Ironically it is we, who have forgotten the freedom that forgiveness brings, who are in bondage.