Dorena Williamson is First Lady at Strong Tower Bible Church, a multicultural fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee. She is the author of ColorFull, ThoughtFull, and GraceFull with B&H Kids. Visit her at dorenawilliamson.com.
Brandt Jean’s response to his brother’s murderer helps us see the Gospel.
But so does Allison Jean’s.
Did you miss hers? Only one response was widely shared on social media after the conviction and sentencing of Amber Guyger, a former Dallas police officer who entered 26-year-old Botham Jean’s apartment and fatally shot him. On Wednesday, Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The Jean family was given the opportunity to make a victim impact statement. Brandt used his time to directly address the officer who killed his brother.
He said, “If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you.”
Brandt told Guyger that Botham would have wanted her to give her life to Christ. He asked to give Guyger a hug, and after State District Judge Tammy Kemp gave her okay, Brandt offered a long embrace. In the video, you can hear Guyger’s loud sobs.
Most have probably seen this footage. Brandt’s offer of forgiveness and hug has been shared and praised widely across social media.
But many have likely missed footage from the rest of the family, including these words from Botham’s mother, Allison Jean.
“Forgiveness for us as Christians is a healing for us, but as my husband said, there are consequences. It does not mean that everything else we have suffered has to go unnoticed,” Mother Allison told the court.
What went unnoticed? According to Botham Jean’s mother, the crime scene was contaminated by Dallas police. High-ranking officials deleted evidence. Police officers turned off body cameras and vehicle cameras.
“You saw investigations that were marred with corruption,” Mother Allison said. “While we walk as Christians, we still have a responsibility to ensure that our city does what is right.”
Listening to the entire Jean family offers us a fuller picture of Christianity. In their words and posture towards Guyger and the criminal justice system, we hear calls for both forgiveness and justice. But if we elevate the words of one family member at the expense of another, we run the risk of distorting the gospel.
The problem of forgiveness
Four years ago, people in my social media timelines enthusiastically extolled the family members of Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson as they publicly extended forgiveness to the man that murdered their family members while they prayed at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The forgiveness was a marvel. But in their marveling, I saw few noting—much less sharing—the lament and grief of family wrestling with the loss of loved ones.
This week, when I first saw Twitter trending with posts about this encounter between a white woman convicted of killing a black man and that black man’s brother, I initially opted not to view the courtroom scene. I read the posts heralding Brandt’s actions as a Christ-like model of forgiveness and raising him up as a model of grace to be emulated by all.
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Source: Christianity Today