This week many news outlets are broadcasting the stunning courtroom footage of an eighteen-year-old black man speaking to the woman who shot and killed his brother. Brandt Jean, brother of slain Botham Jean, took the witness stand at the sentencing of Amber Guyger and said:
If you truly are sorry, I know, I speak for myself, I forgive you. I know if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you. I love you just like anyone else and I’m not going to hope you rot and die . . . I personally want the best for you. I wasn’t going to say this in front of my family, 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. Give your life to Christ. I think giving your life to Christ is the best thing Botham would want for you.
He then asked the judge if he could give his brother’s killer a hug. The judge agreed, and right in front of the bench, Jean and hugged Guyger and spoke softly to her as she sobbed in his arms.
“I never saw anything like that [in thirty-seven years of practicing law],” the district attorney in the case observed.
Brandt Jean’s forgiveness is not merely an extraordinary act of mercy and kindness. It is the miracle power of the gospel in action.
We know this by seeing how people respond when witnessing such an act. Many people are giving honor and glory to God for what this young man did. Many also admit that under the circumstances, they don’t know if they could do the same. He was apparently the only member of his family willing to get up and publicly declare and demonstrate forgiveness. We know that what he did was a rare and beautiful thing that requires incredible grace.
Forgiveness is not telling someone that the wrong they did wasn’t wrong. It isn’t saying they shouldn’t experience consequences for their sin. It is saying, “I am not your punisher. I will not be acting as your judge, jury, and executioner in this matter. Instead, I am going to take the pain of this violation to God, who judges all. On the cross, He absorbed the entire cost of our sin to open the door to healing and restoration. I am taking my pain to Him and trusting that He will be faithful to heal and restore me from this loss. And I want Him to do the same for you.”
What does it take for us to surrender our role as the punisher? It takes faith in God. We must trust that His way of dealing with sin is better than ours—that it is the only way to healing and restoration. Only by this trust can we access deep, genuine forgiveness, the kind marked by love, freedom, and compassion, that we see in Brandt Jean—and in Jesus, who prayed for His murderers from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus Himself declared that the power to forgive comes from God, and is the same power by which He healed the sick:
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:5-12 NIV)
Jesus’ faith to heal the paralytic was the same faith to forgive the man’s sin. This faith then, as it is now, was rare. Jesus’ audience said the same thing the district attorney said—“We have never seen anything like this.” Yet this is the very power of the gospel that is available to every one of us who puts our trust in Jesus. We come to Him putting our trust in Him to forgive us—that is the doorway to the kingdom. If we believe that He will forgive us, then we must believe He will forgive others—and we must extend that forgiveness. As Jesus taught His disciples:
“So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying “I repent,” you must forgive them.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” (Luke 17:3-6 NIV)
This is the prayer we need to be praying—for ourselves, for our marriages, our families, our communities, our nation: “Increase our faith!”
Do we really believe that Jesus has fully forgiven us for our sins? Are we living like that, or are we still carrying burdens of guilt and shame?
Do we really believe that Jesus has given us to power to forgive others? Do we believe that we don’t need to punish those who sin against us? Do we believe that forgiveness is the only way to healing and restoration?
Thanks to Jesus, the miracle of forgiveness no longer needs to be rare. It’s time to rediscover the power of the gospel—the only thing that can take the tragic mess of our sin and transform it into healing, life, and hope.
P.S. The miracle of forgiveness—as well as the miracle of repentance—is really the heart of my new book, Unpunishable. I’m convinced that the body of Christ is supposed to be a place filled with Brandt Jeans, a place where sinners encounter the miracle of forgiveness for their sin as well as the miracle of repentance from their sin. In this book, I want to increase your faith to believe in the power of the gospel to transform you and your relationships on the other side of sinful messes. Order today and join me on this journey to access the power Jesus has made available! Get your copy here!