Botham Jean was killed by Amber Guyger. The off-duty police officer walked into what she believed to her apartment and shot Botham. By now, many have seen the heart-wrenching story of Botham’s brother (Brandt) delivering a courtroom speech of love. He forgave Amber Guyger.
He overflowed with the love of God.
While this act of forgiveness is shocking to the world, it has been the centerpiece of the Christian faith for 2,000 years. When Christians are actually living out the truths of the gospel, they show the world a better way.
The etymology of “Botham” means “he who lives in a broad valley.” It means hitting bottom, or depression. Yet, his life speaks from the top—from the life-giving mountaintop of the gospel. From the testimony of Brandt, Botham’s brother, Botham’s life points to a better way, a life-giving way—the way of Jesus.
To much of the world, however, such a heinous act of violence would plant a deep seed of anger that would eventually yield the fruit of bitterness and hatred—leading one down the path toward depression and bitterness.
However, that wasn’t the way of Botham. That wasn’t how he thought. Although deceased, his life declares a radical forgiveness that could only come through the life and heart of Jesus.
When I was reading the story and watching the testimony, the only thing that came to my mind was #Jesus. So, that’s what I tweeted.
I understand there are other issues to consider. “What about justice?” “What about the issue of systemic racism, white supremacy, and the abuse of power” etc? I understand there are many underlying issues here.
Brandt, while on the stand, didn’t address everything—and neither will my article. While there will be other opportunities to discuss those important issues (and I’ve written on a number of them on many occasions), let’s not miss the heart of forgiveness manifested in the life of two brothers.
Brandt, who understood the heart and life of his brother Botham more so than anyone else, exhorts the world towards the radical nature of gospel forgiveness. It’s OK to dwell on that for a moment, while acknowledging that there are other issues to consider.
Forgiveness, at the end of the day, puts the amazing power of the gospel on display.
In his Essay On Forgiveness, C.S. Lewis picks up on how Christ’s forgiveness sets the tone for our own posture towards others:
Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, “Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.” We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what he says.
Lewis boils it down to a straightforward yet difficult truth: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
In short, Brandt and Botham manifest forgiveness in the vein of Jesus.
First, forgiveness is countercultural.
One reason why acts of forgiveness such as Jean’s are so shocking is because they are countercultural.
Vitriol is winning the day. Our anger and bitterness result in the justification of “counterpunching.” The mantra, “Eye for an eye; tooth for a tooth” wins the day. People want to react to fire not with water but with fire.
Jesus’ insistence upon forgiveness is truly countercultural.
Jesus calls his followers to sacrificially turn the other cheek. Jesus puts no cap on the limits of our forgiveness—70 x 7. We can’t use another’s sin as an excuse for our own.
Make no mistake, this is hard. But this is why forgiveness is countercultural. More importantly, this is why forgiveness–in the vein of Jesus—is supernatural.
Second, forgiveness does not eliminate the consequences of sin.
Does forgiveness condone or excuse sin? This is what we believe—why our culture—and even many Christians—struggles with forgiveness. We believe offering forgiveness negates accountability. But this is a lie.
Theologically speaking, this is not even biblical. On the cross, Jesus cried, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus wasn’t excusing the sin of humanity that nailed him to the cross—he was taking their punishment.
There were and are consequences to sin.
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Source: Christianity Today