“I forgive you … I want the best for you … I know that’s what Botham would have wanted … and the best would be to give your life to Christ. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do.”
Amazing, amazing words spoken by Brandt Jean, as he addressed the woman (Amber Guyger) who had just been sentenced for the murder of his brother, Botham Jean. It was a trial that populated headlines, generated numerous debates, and captivated the world. Like the trial itself, the news of his incredible act of forgiveness and his gentle offer for her to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ spread like wildfire. The gesture neutralized a potentially aggressive crowd in and around the courtroom and even prompted the judge herself to hand her Bible to Guyger. While emotions and feelings widely vary on the nature of Guyger's sentence, this moment of forgiveness initiated by Jean was fully separate from the judicial process and was completely paralyzing.
Forgiveness is powerful.
But it’s not just powerful for the person being forgiven; it’s also enormously powerful for the person doing the forgiving. Here are three reasons why.
Forgiveness frees you from the bondage of bitterness
When someone has committed an offense against you, offended you or hurt you in a tremendous way, there’s a feeling that wells up inside. That feeling can be given any number of names (hatred, anger, repulsion, etc), but the core of the issue remains the same: Bitterness. You are embittered by the person who has wronged you. It’s a bitterness that the offender may not feel at all, but you feel it – and you are in bondage to it every moment of every day. It sours joy and dampens moments of happiness.
Most importantly, it is a shackle that keeps you from experiencing the kind of freedom that Christ provides in His death for your sins on the cross. A freedom that is only found in forgiveness. When you forgive, the shackles fall off, the bitterness wanes after a season and you are restored to finding your identity in who you are in Christ, which far surpasses anything that can be taken from you in this world.
Forgiveness provides a path to healing
Every moment we refuse to forgive is a moment we are choosing to keep the wound of the offense against us fresh. How can an emotional wound heal if it is constantly torn open each time the offense is brought to mind? Who is that hurting? The offender? No. It’s always and only hurting you. Why continue such a hurtful and sickly cycle when there is a way to break free from it? And there is a way – it is through forgiveness. Forgiveness is the healing balm that allows the wound to be healed. Will there be a scar? Absolutely. But scars remind us what we’ve been healed from and they point us to the Healer who gave us the gold standard of what unprovoked forgiveness looks like. This leads us to number three.
Forgiveness reflects the hands and feet of Christ like nearly nothing else
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That’s Romans 5:8, and it’s powerful reminder of what forgiveness looks like from Christ’s point of view.
Notice that phrase, “while we were still sinners.” Praise God there wasn’t some burden put on you or me to stop sinning in any capacity before Jesus committed the ultimate act of forgiveness and substitution. We had not only committed an offense, but were continuing the offense at full force when He offered Himself in our/your/my place. That’s amazing! And while we can’t replicate that, we can certainly reflect it in our relationships with those who have offended us.
As Jesus perfectly demonstrated, forgiveness frees your offender from being an enemy and provides the possibility of reconciliation. You stood as His enemy, and nothing you have done has wooed Him to be your friend, and yet, He chose the path of forgiveness. A path that provided you the opportunity to be reconciled with God and to be in a loving relationship with your Savior. You have the same capability to free someone from the burden of being your enemy through the act of forgiveness. And while it won’t always result in reconciliation, because that just isn’t always possible, it will result in reflecting Jesus to someone who may need to know He is real. And He becomes very real when the forgiveness He has shown to you is reflected to someone else.
What an amazing moment it was at that trial when Brandt Jean offered simple forgiveness during his impact statement. It was a moment that many have used in the past during trials to condemn the offender. He chose to express Christ instead. Don’t let that moment go to waste. How can you reflect that kind of forgiveness to someone in your own life?
Blog image via Reuters