Botham Jean was a black, 26 year old accountant innocently sitting on the couch in his apartment, watching TV and eating vanilla ice cream.
Amber Guyger was a white, 31 year old police officer who had just finished a 13.5 hour shift. She got off the elevator one floor too early and entered the same door which would have been hers – if she was on the right floor.
The door opened simply to the pressure of her trying to put the key in the lock, so she drew her service weapon. She and Jean surprised each other, but she shot him twice, and killed him.
She was found guilty of murder, but amidst all the heated debate about real or exaggerated police brutality & racism, the relevance of self defence laws and appropriate sentencing, one moment brought the whole courtroom to tears, including the black judge.
Brandt Jean, the murdered man’s younger brother, looked his brother’s killer in the eye and repeated over and over again words of healing and life, “I forgive you.” Brandt made multiple references to his Christian faith, God’s forgiveness for her, her need for Christ, and his own unconditional love for her and his prayers for her blessing.
Jean asked the judge for permission to hug Guyger, which she granted, wiping tears from her own eyes as they embraced without bitterness, hate or resentment. For nearly a full minute he held her unreservedly, both weeping.
This is how a person, a community, a nation matures and progresses. Forgiveness.
I wrote an article during National Reconciliation Week about the stubborn obstacles I observe preventing that noble objective. I received some sincere criticism for it, amongst which was the question, “Who are you to tell indigenous people they should forgive past wrongs before reconciliation can happen when you haven’t lived through their pain or shared their experiences?“
My answer remains the same.
I am a Christian. I am a recipient of the forgiveness of God, and a practitioner of forgiveness in my life. I don’t claim to be perfect, or even to be qualified to lecture, but I am a beneficiary of the revelation of His Truth which is relevant and applicable and potent for every gender, age, ethnicity and other identity trait which may seek to divide rather than unite.
The answer to that question is another, rhetorical question, “Who am I to withhold the Truth from indigenous people – or anyone else?“
Truth is not subjective or situational, and if I really believed I had somehow discovered it – and indeed I do, not of my own invention but by good fortune and opportunity – then the most hateful, spiteful, maliciously rascist thing I could do would be to withhold this freedom and blessing from other souls simply because they happened to have some indigenous ethnic heritage.
Who am I to decide on another’s behalf they are not ready for Truth & wisdom, but should discover it by themselves or someone else should share this treasure with them?
And so I share this story to again share the miracle of freedom found only through forgiveness.
If our nation and indigenous people in particular are to ever be free from the shackles of the past and the hurts of terrible moments in our common history, the key does not lie in a shopping list of arbitrary conditions to be met before reconciliation is granted.
This young, black, Christian man is an unassuming leader worthy of world attention, and his example worthy of being imitated.
“If you truly are sorry,” Botham Jeans’s younger brother Brandt Jean told Amber Guyger from the witness stand, “I know I can speak for myself. I forgive you.“
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