I’ve watched the video a dozen times and I’m moved to the verge of tears and inspired to the point of my heart bursting each time. You’ve probably seen the video: Botham Jean’s little brother, Brandt, speaking directly to Amber Guyger in the Dallas courtroom where she was convicted of murdering Botham and sentenced to ten years in prison. Brandt forgave her, told her he loved her, and then, in an unprecedented display of that forgiveness and grace, hugged his brother’s killer.
It’s remarkable. It’s beyond description. It’s Jesus. It’s the Kingdom of God. And it’s the only thing that can fix what’s wrong with us and with our world.
We can’t fix what’s really wrong. We try, but we can’t — not with education or technology or ingenuity or force. It takes forgiveness. It takes grace. It takes love.
It takes the words 18-year-old Brandt Jean spoke to Amber Guyger yesterday:
“I forgive you. If you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. I love you just like anyone else. I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did. I personally want the best for you… 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. And the best would be to give your life to Christ. 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.”
Brandt then looked back at Judge Tammy Kemp and asked, “I don’t know if this is possible, but, can I give her a hug, please?”
When Judge Kemp hesitated, Brandt pleaded, “Please?”
When the judge said, “Yes,” Brandt stepped down from the witness stand and he and Guyger hugged.
But here’s what strikes me. Everything I’ve written to this point is only leading to this. This is what I really want you to read and seriously consider today. Pay attention to this.
When Brandt gets down from the stand and approaches Guyger she RUNS to him. She runs. She almost leaps into his arms to hug Brandt. And at the point when a normal hug would be over and the two huggers would typically separate, she re-hugged him. She wouldn’t let him go. His arms were open, he initiated the hug, but Amber Guyger ran to him and wouldn’t let go.
That moves me to the core of my soul.
I don’t know Amber Guyger. I don’t know anything about her other than what’s been written in the news and testified to in court. I don’t know much about her past, I don’t know the darkness in her heart, I don’t know why she shot and killed Botham, and I can’t imagine what she’s going through right now. But I know that when Brandt offered forgiveness and grace, she ran to him.
I don’t know but if Amber Guyger has been waiting her whole life for somebody to show her some unconditional Christian love. I don’t know but that her soul has been crying out for this for years: “Somebody forgive. Somebody express some love. Somebody say something kind. Somebody show grace. Somebody open your arms to me in acceptance and mercy.” And when somebody did — the teenage brother of her victim — she ran to him.
I also know that Brandt’s act of courageous forgiveness and unconditional love diffused the violence that was percolating in the streets of Dallas last night. Yes, there was a small protest in front of the courthouse. While Botham’s family sang and prayed at the Dallas West Church of Christ, dozens of demonstrators marched through downtown in protest of the relatively light sentence handed to Guyger. But there was only one arrest. Nobody got hurt.
I’m reminded that when the families of the victims of the church shooting in Charleston four years forgave Dylann Roof in that court hearing right after the massacre, the head of the Black Lives Matter movement called off their march. “It shut us down,” he said. “When they forgave him, it shut us down.”
The way she ran to him. I can’t get that out of my heart today.
That’s the power of the Kingdom of God, friends. The power of our Lord Jesus is not in threat or force or punishment, it’s not in numbers or petitions or boycotts, it’s not in protests or marches or demonstrations. The power of God’s Kingdom — what moves people and changes hearts and heals souls and destroys evil and will eventually transform us and the world — is forgiveness and mercy.
Brandt’s father said last night that his son’s actions in that courtroom didn’t surprise him because that’s how he was raised. That Church of Christ in St. Lucia taught and nurtured that, they practiced that. I hope our Church of Christ in Amarillo and your church wherever you are is teaching and nurturing the same thing.
Beautifully expressed, old friend.
This must be our message to the lost world around…the power of love and forgiveness! We saw it demonstrated in this courtroom and we see it in the cross and resurrection of Jesus! This is the message, this is the power of Jesus’ love, this is what disciples are called to do and to live out! Thank you Allan!
I am indebted to Brandt, he walked in the footsteps of Jesus, where I aspire to be, but somehow I let things, distractions, priorities get in the way of it. This my friend is a wake up call to rebalance for me. I pray for compassion, have been for the past year as life builds this ‘scale’ on us and somehow we need to flush it off (probably another analogy her). But Brandt showed what Grace is to me. Amber, rejoiced when receiving it. I pray that the ‘scale’ of life is cleaned off of me and hope that resetting helps me see the world with different eyes. Amen to your comments Allan.