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Radical Forgiveness and Beautiful Grace – The Difference Christ Makes

This weeks Christian Today post – you can read the original here

The title they gave is “An astonishing courtroom hug and what it teaches us about radical forgiveness”…I prefer mine!   Radical Forgiveness and Beautiful Grace – the Difference Christ Makes’ because this incident sums up the difference between joyful biblical Christianity and joyless, miserable atheistic ideology! (although to be fair there have already been some Christians who have sought to pour their own particular brand of misery and scorn on this beautiful oil pouring moment!).

Brandt Jean and Amber Guyger
Brandt Jean and Amber Guyger embracing in court. Behind sits Judge Tammy Kemp, who gave Guyger her personal Bible

Hitchens Question

The late great Christopher Hitchens used to ask what was considered an unanswerable question – what can Christians do that other people could not?

One answer came this week in the rather extraordinary words and actions of a young African American called Brandt Jean. Brandt’s brother had been killed by a white police officer – Amber Guyger – who entered his apartment and shot him dead while he was eating ice cream. She claimed that she had mistakenly entered the wrong apartment and thought he was a burglar. The court found her guilty and sentenced her to ten years in prison.

The court case was televised live, turning the sad event into a real life soap opera, and was avidly watched. There is one particular clip from that court case which has now gone viral throughout the world – when Brandt told the officer that he forgave her, urged her to seek the forgiveness that Jesus Christ offers, and then went and hugged her. It was a stunning, beautiful and almost unbelievable moment. Even hard hearted cynics like yours truly was moved to tears. It is also one of the most stunning examples of the biblical idea of forgiveness that you will ever see.

Brandt made clear that he was speaking only for himself, not his family or community. There were plenty who, while they appreciated the sentiment, thought it to be daft and dangerous. Hitchens would have agreed. He argued that the Christian teaching to love your enemies is masochistic and evil, because it leaves people at the mercy of the wicked. If you just forgive then surely that gives carte blanche to those who seek to do harm? Is there no justice? Is this just for the weak?

How could he do it?

Most people look at Brandt’s actions and think I could not do it…a sentiment I share – until I look away and look at the Cross – the place where justice and mercy meet. “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other” (Psalm 85:10 ESV). There justice was done. There forgiveness was purchased. There mercy and justice come together.

Somewhat bizarrely and yet somehow unsurprisingly, the BBC report showed the clip where Brandt hugged his brother’s killer, but not the part where he gave his reason for doing so.

They missed the key part. It is because Brandt was aware both of the seriousness of sin, and the remedy for it found in the Cross of Christ, that he was able to apply that to his own heart and his own personal circumstances. The BBC don’t have to agree with his Christian reasoning, but they should at least acknowledge that this was his reason for behaving in such an extraordinary way.

The Judge

The judge certainly did. Judge Tammy Kemp came down from the judgement seat and handed Amber her own personal Bible stating ‘you can have mine, I have three more at home’ and then urging her to read John 3:16 before also giving her a hug.

Can anyone imagine what would happen if the UK if a judge did such a thing? The Humanist Society, the Guardian and Richard Dawkins would need therapy! The cries of ‘whatever happened to separation of church and state’ would resonate in the echo chamber. In fact the Freedom from Religion Foundation in the US have already lodged a judicial complaint, on the grounds that what the judge did was ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘an abuse of power’. What a miserable, joyless bunch fundamentalist atheists are! The judge was not acting in an official capacity (her judging had already been done), nor was she imposing a bible on Amber, but this was a personal gesture, giving the person she had just sentenced her own personal bible.

The judge clearly believes in The Judge and I suspect is both a better judge and human being because of it. This week some others judges in Northern Ireland decided in their wisdom that it was a denial of human rights NOT to allow a human child in the womb to be killed. The ideology of death and darkness is sadly now deeply ingrained amongst many of those who both interpret and make our laws.

The Difference Christ Makes

What Brandt did was not excusing crime. It was not saying to white police officers ‘you can come in and shoot us, because we are so weak’. What he did was not weakness. No, this was an example of an extraordinary strength, a supernatural strength that can only come from within. A strength that flows into the weak from the Cross. It really is the Light shining into the Darkness.

Brandt’s actions also give the lie to another oft-quoted Hitchens statement:

“We keep on being told that religion, whatever its imperfections, at least instils morality. On every side, there is conclusive evidence that the contrary is the case and that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid.”

No, there is not conclusive evidence to the contrary. In fact it is Hitchens’ ideology of hating your enemy and seeking revenge, which causes people to be more mean, selfish and stupid. The only thing that breaks the revenge cycle is the radical forgiveness offered and enabled by Christ. The only solution to the hatred, division and bitterness caused by human sin is to have that sin dealt with and people to be forgiven and reborn. Unless the heart of the problem (which is the problem of the human heart) is solved then we will never get out of the depths.

Ps 130:105 sums it up beautifully (I suggest you listen to the Getty version of Psalm 130).

The world has only superficial solutions that do not get us out of the depths. But we have a Saviour who comes down. There is no pit so deep that Christ has not gone deeper still.

Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;

Lord, hear my voice.

Let your ears be attentive

to my cry for mercy.

If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,

Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,

so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,

and in his word I put my hope.

We saw that lived out in the life of this young Christian man this week. The next time you pray ‘forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors’, think of Brandt’s example. Beautiful Grace.

David Robertson is director of Third Space in Sydney and blogs at

Quantum 62 – The one with Thomas Cook; Boris; Miliband; Generosity; Forgiveness; Climate Change; Chinese Communism; No Whites Anti-Racism; Abbey Road; Kanye West; Gaelic Psalms

Amber Guyger and Brandt Jean – Forgiveness – the Most Radical Teaching of Christ – in Practice

The Madness of Crowds – A Review of Douglas Murray’s Latest Book


  1. Again, David…absolutely beautiful and hard all rolled into one.
    Thank you for sharing this moment that moves far beyond our worldly comprehension.
    This young man has moved me in such a way that almost leaves me ashamed…could I do as he has???… could I point to Jesus while wrapped in my own anger and pain???
    I can only pray so…

  2. “ The late great Christopher Hitchens used to ask what was considered an unanswerable question – what can Christians do that other people could not?”

    IMO, that is a good question, but one that misses the mark. Because Christianity is not about Christians – it is about Christ. We are not meant to “preach ourselves”. The Good News is about Christ and His Kingdom; not about us.

    1. That’s a bit of a false dichotomy and itself misses the mark. Christ himself said that people would know we are Christians because of our love, that they would glorify our Father in heaven because of our good deeds etc. The impact that Christ has on Christians is part of the Good News.

      1. However, the effect Christ has on His People is not their doing, but His. So in that sense, Hitchens is right: there is nothing they can do, of themselves, that others cannot do.

        Of course the action of Christ on His People should have the effect of transforming them, but even if it does, they can take no credit for it: it is not something they do. And even if there is a transformation, it can always be ascribed to some cause other than Christ. No act of God on His People is so undeniable that it cannot be explained without reference to God – a point made by William James in his lectures on The Varieties of Religious Experience in 1902.

        I often think it is a great pity that the Gospels nowhere show us any excbanges between Christ, and “hard-boiled” atheists.

  3. The Telegraph also gave the story quite a bit of space, but carefully excised the part where Brandt begged Amber Guyger to give her life to Christ.

    Shows they know it’s important, and thank God for youtube (until the same censorship hits that too).

    1. A fan of conspiracy theories?

      Why would those who work at a newspaper possibly believe that “carefully excising” an element of a story would mean that they had stopped that element from becoming widely known?

      For goodness sake the Telegraph is a single newspaper, there are literally thousands of different ways in which what you call this “excised” part of the story has probably been made perfectly clear….radio, newspapers, blogs, television etc etc.

      YouTube is clogged with religious stories, sermons, debates, teachings etc of myriad varieties which YouTube hasn’t done a single thing about – so on what possible grounds can you make this veiled declaration that its only a matter of time until religion is wiped from YouTube?

  4. Over here in the Netherlands they showed this young man’s actions, but cut out everything he said before he asked if he could give her a hug. It is once again proof how our view on the world is manipulated by the media who still call themselves ‘neutral’ but in reality use their power to undermine everything that is remotely christian. Thank you so much for sharing…otherwise I probably would have missed it.

  5. I wrote on my blog recently about the “Seemingly Lost Concept of Forgiveness.” So many people today refuse forgiveness for themselves, refusing to forgive others, harboring anger over the most insignificant slights. Apologies anger them. And then this statement by Brandt Jean. I have watched it a few times. Odd how the US media edits out the hug to cut to the angry protestors outside the courtroom, but the media in the US reports propaganda and only one opinion. Thank you for this post and the previous posts where you have raised this topic.

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