“I don’t want to say it twice, or for the hundredth time, what you’ve or how much you’ve taken from us. I think you know that. I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you have done in the past. Each and every one of us may have done something we were not supposed to do. If you truly are sorry, I know – I can speak for myself – I forgive you, and I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. And I don’t think anyone can say it – I am speaking for myself, not 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. I wasn’t going to say this in front of my family or anyone. But, I don’t want you to even go to jail. I want the best for you. That’s exactly what Botham would want for you. And the best for you is to give your life to Christ. Can I give her a hug please?”
These are the words of forgiveness Brandt Jean, brother of shooting victim Botham Jean, spoke to Amber Guyger, the police officer who shot Botham, before he wrapped his arms around her.
Brandt Jean’s act of forgiveness was incredibly powerful. His willingness to look in the eye the person who took his sibling’s life, to tell her that he forgives her, loves her, and hopes for the best for her, and then to embrace her, was an incredibly holy moment. It was an amazing witness of what we who have chosen to follow in the Way of Jesus, the Way of Love, are all called to.
When the disciples ask Jesus to “teach us to pray,” central in his response was the importance of both seeking and offering forgiveness: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Let’s be honest: true forgiveness is terribly hard work. Especially when someone has treated you badly. Yet, as beloved children of God, it may in fact be the most important work we do. It is undoubtedly a large portion of what it means to be in loving relationship with our family and close friends. When we are called to the work of “loving your neighbor,” this also includes forgiving strangers, friends, family, or foe.
Amidst a devastating tragedy, Brandt Jean’s witness of the work of our faith to love, forgive, embrace, and want the best for those who offend us is an inspirational model for us all.