(Image: The Guardian)
“It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!”
That’s Corrie Ten Boom, recalling the horrors of the Ravensbrück concentration camp, where she and her sister Betsie were imprisoned by the Nazis for the crime of hiding Jews in Holland. The memories came flooding back after a talk she had given at a church in Munich. “It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives,” she wrote.
“This man” that Ten Boom recalls walking naked in front of was a guard at the camp—and as fate would have it, he was at her talk and currently making his way straight towards her.
He held out his hand to shake the hand of a prisoner he did not remember—but yet desperately wanted something from. He explained that since the war ended, he had become a Christian. “I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well,” he said. “Fräulein, will you forgive me?”
Ten Boom continued:
“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart … ‘Jesus, help me!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’ And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”
I remember my mother telling Corrie’s story to me as a young girl. I remember trying to grasp what had happened. I remember trying to imagine the loss of my family and then tried to imagine forgiving the person responsible. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Could such a thing really happen? Could someone express forgiveness and brotherly love for someone responsible for such pain? I’ve often envisioned what that meeting between former prisoner and former guard would have looked like—and I’ve often wished I could have seen it.
And then, out of absolutely nowhere—and amidst a sea of reasons to disbelieve something like Ten Boom’s forgiveness could ever materialize in this hyper-divided world—it happened. I got to see what Corrie Ten Boom described.
A young man, barely an adult himself, choked back tears in a courtroom as he gave his victim impact statement in front of the woman who had taken his brother from him.
Brandt Jean, younger brother of the fatally shot Botham Jean, looked at former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger and the courtroom that would decide her fate, and began:
“I love you just like anyone else,” Brandt said. “I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die… I personally want the best for you and I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone but I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do — and the best would be to give your life to Christ.”
In what I can only imagine is an unprecedented movie, he asked the judge for permission to hug Guyger. As he came off the stand and walked towards her, she met him in an embrace that lasted over a minute. They shed tears, prayed—and the judge herself even came down to hug the woman, give her a Bible, and pray with her.
And suddenly, all was calm.
With just a few words, Brandt Jean quelled a riot brewing outside the courtroom. He quelled hate, and replaced it with the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. He quelled the cries of racism and bigotry, and replaced it with humanity. In just a few words—words that, just like Corrie Ten Boom prayed so many years ago, came straight from the faith in his Savior.
His faith saved this country.
When I heard the news of Botham Jean’s shooting for the first time, my heart sank. It sank for him, and for his grieving family. It sank for the officer, who so clearly made a horrible, horrible mistake. It sank for the men and women in blue—as I knew it would only make their jobs harder. It sank for the inevitable race hustlers who would seize on the situation to stir up further discord in our already divided nation.
When she was sentenced, my heart sank again when I read the headlines. Every last one of them made a POINT to emphasize the color of her skin, and the color of Bothom Jean’s. Every last one of them tried to use this tragedy as a vehicle by which to further the narrative that this nation is a rotting, putrid cesspool of racism, despite every single indication to the contrary. My heart sank when discussing the case with people around me, their reactions were par for the course: “Well, of course it’s about race. She’s a white cop and he’s black. Of course they should point out his race.”
(Never mind the fact that the people I was speaking with about this case are residents of a city where a black officer shot an unarmed white woman for simply approaching the squad… and while he too was charged with murder and sentenced to 12 years in jail this past June, nary a peep was heard about it. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not suggesting the same horrible race-baiting should have happened in this case; I’m simply bringing this up as evidence of the narrative that the media is determined to push. Why else cover with such fervor Amber Guyger’s case, and let former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor’s case disappear quietly into the night? But I’ve digressed.)
My heart sank, because I knew we were in for as a nation.
And then in an instant, the faith of an 18-year-old changed the course of Amber Guyger’s life, changed the course of an entire city and state—and changed the course of an entire nation.
It was truly a thing to behold.
On Chris Salcedo’s WBAP show this past Thursday, a caller remarked that “God was allowed in that courtroom, and look what it did.” He’s absolutely right. The fact that the judge allowed Jean to say what he said, and do what he did, is what neutralized a volatile, tragic situation.
And yet now, there are those trying to stop it. Most prominently, the Freedom from Religion Foundation has “filed a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct regarding the actions of the judge in the Amber Guyger murder trial.”
They are literally more concerned with their misinterpretation of the relationship between religion and government than with the peace that both Brandt Jean and Judge Kemp brought in this situation. They’d rather silence faith, even if it means silencing the very thing that brought this ticking time bomb to its knees.
Don’t let them do this. Don’t let them try and overshadow this miraculous story with their hatred of faith. Tell this story over and over again—don’t let it fade into obscurity. Write in support of Judge Kemp; praise her for her wisdom and her kindness towards a young woman whose life is over as she knew it.
I’ve often mused about my own life and if I really have an impact. Brandt Jean’s powerful display of forgiveness reminded me that it’s not about me. It’s about Jesus Christ, and the power of his forgiveness. We don’t need to be powerful or famous or influential to change the course of the world. It’s simple, and it’s right inside of us. And yet, so often (as the children’s song goes) we “hide it under a bucket.” If this miraculous display has taught us anything, it’s that we need to grow in and live our faith, and live it out loud.
We all have something to strive for in the footsteps of Brandt Jean. As the aforementioned Chris Salcedo reminded us all: don’t squander this. Don’t squander the opportunity to grow in your faith and to be able to play a role in quelling hate. Don’t squander the opportunity to let GO of hate and anger, either. As Corrie Ten Boom wrote, to hold on to hate and anger and refuse to forgive is to torment yourself for as long as you choose to keep holding on to it.
Don’t squander that which silences hate.
This, people. This is how we heal.
Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com, and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show on KSEV 700 Radio in Houston, and on Newsmax TV. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree