Last week’s news included a knife attack in Paris, 20 deaths in Iraqi protests, unrest in Hong Kong, hurricanes in the Atlantic, a shooting at a retirement community, and the list goes on. But one news story really caught my attention. In the US, there have been a number of police shootings that have involved white policemen and black individuals. This week there was an article about an off-duty cop, Amber Guyger, who had just finished a double shift, when she entered her apartment building on the wrong floor. She went to the apartment directly above her own where a black man, Botham Jean, was seated watching TV. She mistook him for an intruder in her apartment and proceeded to shoot him. It was really his own apartment. This week she was sentenced to ten years in jail for murder.
What was so astonishing about the case was that the man’s 18-year old brother, Brandt Jean, told the court that despite what his family had lost, if Guyger was truly sorry for what she had done, then he forgave her. He also said that his main desire was not that she serve time in prison, but that she give her life to Christ. Not only did he speak these amazing words, but he then asked to give her a hug, during which time Amber wept at the thought that he would forgive her. You see, Brandt Jean is a Christian, so he understands what forgiveness and grace are all about. And he doesn’t just understand it. He walked it out in this very visible example of forgiveness and grace.
Not everyone was inspired by Jean’s actions. Many felt that Guyger did not get what she deserved, which could have been many more years in prison. They also felt that society is wrongfully using the willingness of the black community to forgive. In a way, I can understand their reactions, for it is very hard to get past what is viewed as an unfair consequence for a wrong that has been committed. I’m not saying that she didn’t deserve jail time and that she deserved grace and mercy. That’s why grace is defined as getting what we DON’T deserve, and mercy is not getting what we DO deserve. In this case, Brandt Jean offered forgiveness to his brother’s killer – something that she DOESN’T deserve. He also showed mercy by not wanting retaliation against her by desiring a super long jail sentence, which could be what she did deserve.
For me, this was a very profound example of how we have been forgiven by God who could just as easily have sentenced us to death for our sinful acts. Instead, he treated us with mercy and grace. I am super impressed that this 18-year old could have such a powerful understanding of these deep concepts. May we learn from this simple, yet rather difficult, act of compassion during a most horrific time in their lives.
Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon C. Brobst, Ed.D.