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Justice and Mercy: The Legacy of Botham Jean

When I first heard the news of Botham Jean being killed in September of 2018, it really hit close to home in a variety of ways. At the time we were both 26, we were both from the DFW metroplex, we both loved God and served the church, we were both avid readers, we were both children of immigrant parents, we both had dreams and passions for our future, and we were both black. To hear that a man like this was killed in the comfort of his own living room because of an officer’s enormous blunder, was very upsetting.

It could have easily been me.

My pain led me to a desire for justice for Botham Jean for over a year now. Knowing how these things often end, I didn’t expect much. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard Amber Guyger, the officer who killed Botham Jean was being tried in court some months back. I was also pleasantly surprised when I heard of her sentence of ten years in prison yesterday. Finally justice was being served.

But this happiness was only fleeting...she killed an innocent man in his own living room because she was scared for her life. Now he has no LIFE! Ten years began to feel like a joke to me. And the righteous anger set back in.

I was wrestling with these thoughts until I saw the video of Brandt Jean forgiving the woman who killed his own brother. He even went as far as to ask the judge to hug her and then tell her of the love of Christ that he hopes she finds in her time in prison.

The judge even left the courtroom got her bible out and began reading passages to Amber, she gave the Bible to Amber and then proceeded to give her a hug as well.

A literal revival in the courtroom.

Where justice had been the entire lens I’ve seen this story through. Out of nowhere, the scandalous grace of God stepped on the scene and made its presence abundantly clear. It refused to be ignored. It was so clear that even the secular stations covering the story had no choice but to share the gospel.

ABC news ended its covering of the event like this...

This act of grace is what his brother would have wanted, to lead a broken soul to Christ. In this age of anger where many rush to the popular vernacular ‘throw hands’, a young man raised his. Grace, an unmerited gift and when given a sight to see.”

This act challenged me in powerful ways and I’m still processing it all. As a friend told me recently...

“justice and mercy must meet at the cross.”

We don’t have to let go of a desire for justice to show mercy. And our desire for grace shouldn’t flood out the need for justice. Jesus holds both in tension. He doesn’t let one or the other go. He holds both and is unmistakably committed to them.

That was what was on display in this case. Allison Jean’s passionate cries for justice for her son and Brandt Jean’s compassionate display of grace for his brother was a glimpse into to the heart of Christ for the whole nation to see.

We are all deserving of death. None of us live up to the perfect law of God. We fall short every time. But Christ died for us, that we may live. That’s grace, but that’s also justice. Someone had to endure the penalty of our sin and Christ took that upon Himself.

This is the tension we must wrestle with, especially as Christians.

If you saw that video and only celebrated the grace that Brandt gave but didn’t wrestle with the tragedy and injustice of Botham’s senseless death, I oblige you to wrestle more and really feel the pain of the Jean family as well as many victims of injustice across our country. This will help you to understand the depth and width of Brandt’s act of grace.

If you found yourself upset at Brandt’s response because you believed that it was weak or that it was a pass for injustice to continue to thrive. Then I also encourage you to wrestle well. Maybe you aren’t as aware of the depths of true justice as you might think. Or maybe you need to realize the gravity of the grace that is freely given to us through Christ.

No matter where you fall, let us all wrestle well.

Rest In Peace

Botham Jean

9/29/1992 - 9/6/2018

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