Brother of murder victim forgives woman who shot him: Refuting the secularization thesis through courageous compassion

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Brandt Jean, Botham Jean’s younger brother, hugs former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger after she was sentenced to ten years in jail on Oct. 2, 2019, in Dallas.

Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was sentenced Wednesday to ten years in prison for killing twenty-six-year-old Botham Jean in his apartment. At the sentencing phase, Jean’s younger brother told her: “I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want for you.” He added: “I love you as a person, and I don’t wish anything bad on you.”

He then asked the court for permission to hug her. The image of the two embracing made national headlines. The prosecutor said that in thirty-seven years of practicing law, “I never saw anything like that.” 

Brandt Jean was right about his older brother’s character and faith. Botham Shem Jean was born in Saint Lucia, an island in the eastern Caribbean. He became a Christian at an early age and began preaching as a teenager. He sang in his church choir in Saint Lucia, in college, and at Dallas West Church of Christ, where he led the congregation in worship the Sunday before he was killed. 

CNN reports that after Brandt Jean’s remarkable act of grace, District Judge Tammy Kemp gave Guyger a Bible and also hugged her. “You can have mine. I have three or four more at home,” the judge said. “This is the one I use every day. This is your job for the next month. It says right here. John 3:16. And this is where you start. ‘For God so loved the world . . .’” 

“Some of us just go one god further.” 

Clearly, neither Brandt Jean nor Judge Kemp intended to minimize the horrific pain caused by Guyger’s actions. Rather, we should see their gracious acts as personifications of the gospel’s transformative power. 

When we know we have been forgiven, we are more empowered to forgive others. We want to give what we have received, to pay forward the grace that has changed…

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