Can I Give Her a Hug?

Today in an unlikely place, the love of Jesus was on full display. Yesterday in Dallas, Texas, Amanda Guyger was found guilty of the murder of Botham Jean and today, she was sentenced to ten years in prison. After a short break, the victim’s family got their opportunity to make a victim impact statement. Brandt Jean, the eighteen-year-old brother of Botham Jean took the stand.

During the prosecution’s testimony, Allison Jean, Botham’s mother, said that she worried about her younger son, Brandt, because he had gotten real quiet lately. She didn’t know what he was thinking. Today, I think everyone who hears his victim impact statement knows exactly what he is thinking.

Forgiveness is a hard issue for many of us. I wrote a Bible study about forgiveness several years ago as a result of God taking me on my journey of forgiveness. In it, I wrote these words:

The best example of this kind of godly love can often be found in the courtroom. During those difficult times when family members and victims have to present a statement to the defendant in a courtroom are some of those moments when you can see God best at work. We can tell a lot about a person when they present their statement to the defendant. Those who are filled with hate, spitfire, and anger toward the defendant have not fully gotten to a point where they can extend love and forgiveness. They are trapped in unforgiveness in that moment, and the devil knows it. On the other hand, those family members and victims who can say they have chosen to forgive that person in love have put aside their emotions, wills and desires, and have given it all to the Lord to handle—and the Lord always handles it in love.
Brandt Jean did more than just say he forgave Amber Gugyger. He said, “I love you and I want the best for you. The best would be for you to accept Christ. And, I don’t even want you to go to jail.” He did this because he said it was what his brother, Botham, would have done. What a powerful testimony of not only forgiveness but of leaving a legacy. Botham had such a strong presence and witness here on earth that he impacted people even after his death.

As I listened to the statement, the commentators were in shock. One, a former judge, said he “had never seen anything like it or contemplated anything like it in all his thirty-seven years on the bench.” One commentator was in tears. The courtroom, including the judge, was in tears.

At the end of his statement, Brandt asked the judge if he could hug Ms. Guyger. The judge, at first, didn’t respond. He said, “Please?” She said, “Yes,” and Amanda Guyger ran into his arms weeping.

After the statement, the Judge Tammy Kemp stepped down from the bench and spent a few moments with the victim’s family. She then went into her chambers, retrieved her Bible, and walked over to Amanda Guyger, read Scripture to her beginning with John 3:16, and prayed with her. She then said other things to her. One of the things I heard her say was, “He has a purpose for you” and I saw her motioning that it is such a short time (possibly inferring how ten years is relatively short in terms of her lifespan). Amanda jumped up and hugged the judge and the judge returned the embrace.

News headlines yesterday were stating the historical context of this case and well, I don’t think any of them were expecting this kind of history. The Gospel was shared on live television for the world to witness.

Botham’s death was a tragic incident but knowing what we know about his life through witness testimony and the amazing words of his brother, Brandt, on the stand today, Botham knew that even one life was worth it. Quite possibly, Botham’s physical death will result in eternal life for Amanda Guyger, and who knows how many other lives from this point forward.

Love disguised as courage is what stood out today in that courtroom. It took courage for Brandt to extend forgiveness and say what he said not knowing how his family would react. Love disguised as courage was on display by the judge for opening her Bible to a defendant. That kind of strength only comes from the Holy Spirit within a person.

                Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right; forgiveness sets you free.

Erin Olson

Founder and CEO of Sandalfeet Ministries

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