BRANDT JEAN made headlines last year when he forgave the white police officer who had killed his black brother, Botham, as she was sentenced to 10 years in jail. The dramatic moment came to mind recently, but not because of the outrage provoked by the Memorial Day police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Remarkable as 18-year-old Brandt’s example was, it didn’t inspire everybody. Some got mad. A CNN report noted how some felt that black people “have been conditioned by years of trauma to reflexively offer forgiveness, especially when the perpetrator is a white person.” Network analyst Bakari Sellers asked, “Why do black folks always have to forgive?”
So I’m not referencing Brandt’s actions in regard to racial issues between humans, but as it speaks to reconciliation between humans and God. In fact, I was reminded of the Dallas courtroom encounter after reading the familiar story of the prodigal son—or the waiting father, as some like to identify it to emphasize its real point. Namely, that you can never out-sin God’s grace.
Trouble is, many of us have a hard time really, really believing that. Sure, we can give mental assent to the notion that God’s love covers all our wrongdoing. We may even be able to quote some Bible verses to that effect. But deep down, there’s a quiet little sense that, “Yeah, that may be true for everyone else, but not for me.”
You can’t talk someone into believing it, but you may be able to treat them into doing so, just as we see with the prodigal son. When he sets out for home from his foreign pig sty, he decides to tell his father he doesn’t deserve to be treated as a son anymore. Just being accepted as a servant would be enough.
He doesn’t change his mind on the journey, not even when he sees his father moving towards him. Even after his father embraces and kisses him, the young man says, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:21). He can’t shake his narrative of himself as unworthy.
Look at how his dad responds. He doesn’t say, “Don’t be silly,” and try to change his mind. In fact, he doesn’t say anything directly to the young man. Instead, he turns to his servants and tells them, “‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:22-24).
The father doesn’t argue, he acts. He doesn’t lecture, he lives. He doesn’t debate, he demonstrates. He doesn’t persuade, he performs.
Officer Amber Guyger may have been moved when she heard Brandt Jean tell her that he forgave her for Botham’s shooting death. But it wasn’t until he surprised everyone by asking the judge if he could give Guyger a hug, stepping down from the stand to embrace her, that the dam broke and she wept.
Only then—in an echo of the way Jesus came down from the place of judgment for us—did Brandt’s words become flesh.
Photo by dbzer0 on Foter.com/CC BY-SA