A Dallas jury recently found former police officer Amber Guyger, 31, guilty of killing Botham Jean, a believer, and worship leader at a Church of Christ in Dallas.
Though the prosecutor was asking for a sentence of 28 years, Guyger was sentenced to ten years in prison.
It was a bizarre story.
Guyger lived in the same apartment building as Botham. She was a police officer and had just finished her shift in September 2018 and was returning home. But according to her testimony, distracted by texts, she inadvertently mistook Botham’s apartment for her own.
Apparently Botham’s door was unlocked and thinking this was her apartment, Guyger was immediately suspicious that someone had broken in.
When Botham stood up, thinking he was an intruder, Guyger pulled her gun, and shot Botham, killing him.
There were obviously a lot of questions about this senseless killing and many were upset that Guyger hadn’t received a longer sentence. In fact, there were protesters outside the court room demanding a longer prison term.
But after the sentencing came down, Botham’s brother Brandt, 18, asked the judge for permission to address Guyger.
It was a powerful statement as he declared his absolute forgiveness to the woman who killed his brother. It was absolute, because while other were demanding a longer sentence, Brandt stated he didn’t want to see her go to jail. He had so completely forgiven Guyger in his heart, that he no longer saw her as guilty:
“I just hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past.
“Each and every one of us have done something that we’re not supposed to do. If you truly are sorry—I know I can speak for myself—I forgive you. 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 or anyone, 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 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 Jean
Then Brandt asked the judge if he could hug Guyger who cried as the two embraced in front of the court room after receiving permission which became even more potent as people witnessed a black man hugging his brother’s white killer.
Brandt understood a powerful truth about forgiving others. When Jesus talked about forgiveness, the Lord linked our willingness to forgive to God’s forgiveness:
If we can’t forgive, then God won’t forgive us, because in one sense our failure to forgive is an insult and ultimately a rejection of the forgiveness God has freely given us.
I believe our ability to forgive is directly linked to our understanding of how much God has forgiven us. When we struggle to forgive, it is because we don’t fully appreciate what Christ did for us on the cross.
And we see that in Brandt’s words as he acknowledged that every one of us has done something wrong. He understood God’s forgiveness and through that understanding was able to forgive.
If you are struggling to forgive, maybe ask the Holy Spirit to give you a fuller revelation on how much God has forgiven you.