Courtroom Compassion

A gesture of forgiveness. A moment of kindness. The first is stirring hearts. The second is stirring controversy.

Amber Guyger had just been convicted of murdering Botham Jean. She shot him on the evening of September 6, 2018. He was in his apartment. She was ending a shift on the Dallas Police force. He was eating ice cream, sitting on his couch. She thought he was an intruder in her apartment. She was sentenced to ten years in prison.

Brandt Jean is the victim’s brother. He was given an opportunity to address Guyger in court. This moment was a tinderbox. Brandt, however, refused to light the match.

He did not wish any ill will upon Guyger. To the contrary, he wished nothing but the best, and asked the presiding judge a stunning question. Holding back tears, the 18-year-old asked the judge, “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug? Please?”

The judged paused, then said “Yes.”

Sobs could be heard in the courtroom as witness and accused embraced.

Good for Brandt. He set us an example. Forgiveness does not downplay the offense, excuse the misdeed, nor does it condone it. Forgiveness is simply the act of changing your attitude toward the offender; it’s moving from a desire to harm toward an openness to be at peace. This teenager reminded us that, while justice matters, forgiveness heals. He modeled the power of forgiveness.

The judge then displayed the power of kindness. Tammy Kemp left the bench to retrieve one of her personal Bibles; then handed it to Guyger. “This is your job for the next month. It says right here. John 3:16. And this is where you start.”  Then the judge quoted the verse, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Who saw this coming? We expect government officials to remain detached, to keep faith at arm’s length. And yet here, in the middle of a courtroom we see a refreshing, affirming act of humanity. We see a person treating another person like, well, like a person.

The judge is under fire for her kindness. A national atheist group, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, has filed a formal complaint with the State of Texas, stating that Kemp’s actions overstepped judicial authority.


Can we not appreciate this gesture  for what it is? A flower finding a way to bloom in this hard sidewalk of our society. We are so harsh to one another. Leaders in DC, shouting. People on the airwaves, shouting. Motorists in traffic, shouting. Anger seems to be the order of the day. Then,  when a person models an act of kindness, we recoil. We accuse her of proselytizing.

I, for one, welcome her compassion.

You and I indwell a lonely planet. Broken hearts populate every office building. Discouragement mummifies countless lives. The world is hungry, yes hungry for a cavalry of kindness. We cannot solve every problem in society, but we can bring hope to a few hearts. And, who knows, if you brighten your corner of the world and I do the same in mine, a quiet revolution of kindness might break out.

© Max Lucado, October 2019

75 comments on “Courtroom Compassion

  1. Amen and Amen! (According to WordPress, my comment is too short, so I’ll lengthen it.) Amen and Amen! Amen and Amen!

  2. Thank you for this beautiful article. The gesture from Brandt towards Amber was truly an amazing testimony of Christ’s loving & compassionate heart. Reminding me of His unfailing unconditional love towards his people.

  3. Amen, Max. I pray abundant blessings over the Judge, the victim’s brother, the victim’s family and the convicted. I pray that God’s mercy and love fill the atheists and all others filled with hate and anger. And I pray that a spark of kindness lights up each of us who call ourselves believers so that we spread kindness and love throughout our nation.

    Thank you for your words of wisdom and love.

  4. Well said! So sad that some are so anger-filled that they want to punish those who show love and compassion. The responses of Brandt Jean and Judge Tammy Kemp show the very heart of God. May those whose hearts are hardened experience God’s love and forgiveness.

  5. my brother was murdered 44 years ago, April 2, 1975. One week after the birth of my son and 2 days after the birth of his son. My mom had flown out to California to be with me and had to fly back to Illinois. She was alone, distraught, hurting, but a man that sat next her listened seeing that she crying and he prayed. My mom was saved as a young girl and got away from the Lord through the years. But, through this, she rededicated her life to the Lord. Which in time, me, my dad, and my brother came to the Lord.
    Forgiveness? Yes, my mom and dad forgave this man. Yes, I also, forgave this man. It makes me wonder today, where this man is. As I know, we have all prayed for him.
    God bless

  6. This is awesome! I hadn’t heard or seen the part of what the judge did! Thank you for sharing this, and I too will share the rest of this story!

  7. Jesus was perfect and sinless and he demonstrated compassion for us. As humans none of us is perfect, but if all of us in the world would show a just a little bit of compassion instead of hate this would make the world a little bit better for all of us.

  8. Yes this was in my opinion the move of the Holy Spirit. What an example for us as a believer! May God bless all of us who witness this miracle of forgiveness. Thank You Lord in Jesus ‘ Name. Amen.

  9. Thank you Max Lucado you have been a light to me. I’m passing it on. Bless this young man.

  10. Thank you for sharing this Max. This world is full of prayer warriors who can support Judge Tamy Kemp. Any act of love makes this world a better place. We can love and pray for our judge’s accusers. They too need compassion. Thank you Tamy for your act of kindness and compassion.
    “Father please lift Tamy up and protect her. She honored You, our creator. We know You are proud of her. Thank you for being a compassionate God who loves the accused AND the accusers. Help us to model that kind of love. In Your Son Jesus name we humbly and gratefully pray. Amen!”

  11. We’ve become a country of being offended by any small thing. This was an example to us all and yet, there are the protesters finding fault and blame. Thank God He is in charge. May all learn how to love one another again.

  12. I cried when I watched the video. I saw Jesus in this young man! And thankful for a judge who cares that much!! So inspiring!

  13. Jesus takes the stand of forgiveness to each and everyone of us when we repent and ask. I believe this young man is the best representation of what we all can and should learn to do…..give genuine, authentic forgiveness in every situation! He is the definition of a true believer and Christian. It gives me hope to see this act of courage, love and respect for all of humanity.

  14. Another really great thing about this is that even if the Judge is treated harshly for her decision to show kindness, the act of kindness already hit it’s mark. No one can erase that. The incident so touched my heart. The Lord is the source of this kindness and forgiveness, and that fact isn’t lost on a whole lot of folks who saw this on the news.

  15. I love this! I have to admit, however, that I’m not sure I’d feel the same if the judge had given him a Quran.

  16. I watched the trial on Court TV. My husband and I were both broken-hearted for both parties in this case. When we witnessed everything that happened after sentencing, we were stunned! I was in tears, my husband was stunned into silence. We said a prayer for both families. It was the most beautiful example of forgiveness we have ever seen in our lives. The bad noise will pass. The judge is a very popular judge for her compassion. We thank God for this brave young man. God Bless. Jim & MJ

  17. What amazing examples of compassion, gentleness, mercy, and grace, first from an incredibly humble young man to a judge, providing a lifeline to a convicted felon. That’s the love of Jesus!!

  18. I wish i could love this however, where is this sentiment of love and forgiveness when it comes to the ‘Christian Right” exhibiting this kind of brotherhood to their black and brown brothers. To say the least there is nothing that they even need to forgive other than their own cruelty. It is sickening and disheartening the number of times that black and brown people are continuously abused, mistreated, and relegated to second hand citizenship as human beings while no admonition is given to those who quickly and easily perform these injustices. It has gotten to the point that pointing out the hypocrisy is no longer even worthy and the concept of calling them brethren is no longer even desired. So much is asked of the oppressed, while nothing is blatantly asked of the oppressor. Over it!

  19. God will bring good from the worst of circumstances. God bless that young man! We should all follow his example of faith in action!

  20. What I witnessed was Heaven coming to Earth. We profess we’re Christian but for that young man to offer a hug has made me want to do better and be better! I wish I could give him a hug!

  21. We know not the hearts of the artists who paint the masterpieces. We only know how each masterpiece touches and changes our own hearts. I certainly can understand why an atheist group would be alarmed. Fear is by nature an alarmist. I too can honestly agree with Tiffany in the fact that if the judge had handed this young woman anything other than a Bible I am not sure what my reaction would have been. With that said, ALL parties were in harmony with what transpired during this breathtaking act of forgiveness. Trying to disrupt that fact in any way is like trying to take a paintbrush to one of the previously mentioned masterpieces in an attempt to make it something it was not intended to be. May God allow this masterpiece of forgiveness to remain unblemished. AMEN.

  22. I’m so proud of this young man. He displayed the act of forgiveness and spoke Jesus and the Judge reiterated that and followed up. The light of Christ was shone so brightly in this dim world. That’s what we are here for. To be the light of Jesus and present His hope for souls.
    Great job to both of them!

  23. We need more of this – compassion and forgiveness. Regarding the atheist group’s claim, I believe our Founding Father’s talked about freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion! Their insistence to have no religion is a choice just as those who are Christians have a choice to be Christian. Their insistence to strip others of their choice and their voice is unacceptable behavior. Jesus tells us we have a choice and this young man gave an incredible gift to the shooter. Compassion and forgiveness – there is no law against this – this is a fruit of the spirit indeed!

  24. Praise the Lord !! So comforting to know we still have true loving people left and they’re not afraid to show It!!

  25. From the cross, Jesus asked God to forgive his persecutors, saying, “They know not what they do.” God’s Word promises He will be a light unto our path and lamp unto our feet. May we all be so in love with our mighty God & His precious Jesus that we go boldly in the mercy of Christ wherever we are asked to sow forgiveness.

  26. I absolutely support the action of Judge Kemp. She is a strong leader and needs to be supported by those of us who feel that America can once again be a strong nation under God.

  27. I have wanted to give Brandt a hug and thank him for letting Jesus speak forgiveness through him. And I agree with Tiffany, I hadn’t thought about it, but if the judge had handed her a Quran it would have made me sad. Good for Judge Tammy Kemp!

  28. I love what Brandt Jean did! I am so hungry for a kindness revolution to breakout across our nation! And the judge, imagine compassion from the bench with justice! If we all began to replicate these acts of kindness, maybe a true kindness revolution will take place. This nation needs a heart change from sea to shiny sea!

  29. I’m curious, let’s say this scenario occurred again the next night with a member of this atheist group. But in this instance, the brother having no concept of forgiveness moves to condemn and destroy. Then we have a non-Christian judge but very much a disciplinarian orders this defendant to the max sentence of years. But then complains, how can Amber receive such a lenient sentence and I’m awarded such a harsh punishment without the possibility of parole until my 20th year. The atheist is wanting our form of justice, but then complains when confronted with a form of society he / she is guilty of creating.

  30. What an impressive and amazing story of forgiveness,
    and Christ’s love shinning in this dark world. I am so proud this judge stood up for Jesus, showed empathy, & showed this young lady the only way to find peace.
    only way to find peace

  31. What an example for the world. My W.W.J.D. bracelet almost glowed on my wrist when I read this. We need so much more forgiveness in this country … and the world. Brandt Jean is wise beyond his years … what a wonderful attitude. It doesn’t bring his brother back but it sure helps to bring closure to the incident.

  32. We witnessed the epitome of Forgiveness… and love.
    It’s a familiar scene to believers.
    That is EXACTLY what Jesus did for us.

  33. This is such a powerful example of true faith in God. That young man is to be commended to go beyond forgiveness in words and showing it in action. We can change the world, one small act of kindness at a time. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

  34. I believe what the judge did was very appropriate. She did this on her time. Court was not in session and the jury had been dismissed. As for Brandt’s act of forgiveness, he did what Jesus would do. The world needed to see this.

  35. The lord orchestrated that moment for all to learn from . Who’s to say in the years to come , the officer while in the wrong , can’t come out and possibly help save that young man or him her.
    Thanks be to a judge who looked at the excused , gave her a book that’ll , heal , clean wounds and dress a broken soul.
    As far as the atheist group , as always it’s about hate and not hope !
    Prayers & Blessings to both families in this horrific loss of life.

  36. I watched it happen and the words Praise God were spoken out loud and as they did I immediately thought how am I doing in this area of forgiving. Have I really forgiven them????I had a church leader slander and lie about me, and the board of Elders knew the truth, even the pastor who claimed to be my friend and the reason I was on the hot seat was because I supported the pastor against a faction in the church that did not want any change and wanted to stay the course which had already failed for years. He betrayed me by saying nothing even though right upto 15 mins before a meeting with the congregation said this man was wrong, He has been lying and tried everything to stop the church from changing and he turned his back on me out of fear of loosing his job and did nothing. Well there was a meeting that turned out to be a mob of hate fueled by the ring leader and I stepped down walked out of the church and have not returned. These were people I loved and trusted, I as an Elder ministered to these people for over 35 years, they did not want to hear anything from me and asked me not to speak. I was so hurt and the pain of betrayal so great it open up old wounds from childhood of trust and sense of belonging and being included instead of excluded.
    Well this was a over a year ago and I do believe I have forgiven them but I do not trust them and fear trusting people including and especially Christian people. I finally started to listen to an online church and have worshiped that way for the last two months and find it in many ways better and far more comfortable. So I still pray that God heals my heart. I feel I have forgiven them I did nor sue them, I hold no negative feelings or thoughts but on rare occasions I hear from one of them that if I forgave them I would come back. I have no desire to be around them and feel if there is to be a reconciliation it is up to them. They have from the beginning expected me to just get over it and rejoin the church as if nothing had happened as a member not in a leadership role, which in that church I could no longer be a effective leader becasue now it would be out of a sense of obligation to God not as service to God.

  37. It is so tragically sad when Christians are so vilified.
    What a wonderful gesture on the part of the teenage brother and the Judge.
    Believers and followers of Jesus never vilify Muslims, Buddhists, and other beliefs.
    We should all take a long hard look of what the inhabitants of this beautiful planet have degenerated into – Guys and gals, do we honestly believe in this ugliness, nastiness and pure hatred?
    No I don’t think so – it’s a question of people trying to set up man-made kingdoms on earth – kingdoms that will fall and eventually fail.

  38. I am so filled with love in my heart right now for the way the Judge handled that case, first for the forgiving heart of the brother and then the Judge planting a seed of love and forgiveness in the defendant heart by giving her a bible. We must remember that when Christ was on the cross, he asked his father to for give the people who was killing him to forgive them for they know not what they do, so that is an example we have to follow in this life of we wants to live a life pleasing to him, he has forgiven us so we can forgive others no matter what the case may be.

  39. The example of Christ’s forgiveness and compassion in this courtroom is something we all need to emulate. If everyone treated their neighbor with forgiveness and compassion, conflict and negativity would disappear! Praise God for this beautiful example of Christian love!

  40. What a gift to see your comments about the acts of forgiveness and of his urging to give her lift to Christ.So brave and such as I have read in Voice of the Martyrs as men and women forgive extreemists who murder their family members and then hold on to their faith in Jesus Christ
    For the judge to came forward to give the bible and to direct the young officer to John 3:16 so she could read and pray and experience God’s forgiveness…. THANK YOU
    2 Chronicles 7:14

  41. Great, great example of and need for – compassion. When presented with the opportunity to do so, how many of us – Christians – are ready to do the same. We are told to reflect Jesus Christ and the fruit of Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We can and should start today. Brandt did.

  42. We must remember the devil is still at work, trying to distract us from the Love n compassion given by the victims brother to what the judge did. But Jesus said He has overcome the world. I love this story as well. Proverbs 10:12

  43. This young man definitely showed compassion; however African Americans have always shown compassion. We were forced too! I can appreciate your sentiments sir, but far too many African Americans have been unfairly imprisioned by authorities, murdered by authorities, set-up by authorities, etc; yet no one has ever forgiven or hugged them! It would be so very nice if some would deal with their biases. I for one will not accept this act of forgiveness as a model of the love we should show until it is shown toward people that look like me and people who look like you write about it!

  44. God placed her there at the right place and the right time…..Like Ester saving her people in the bible maybe the judge was chosen to help save those who sit in her court… heartbroken person at a time….

  45. Recently my wife, brother in law, and sister in law, attended a Dr David Jeremiah event in Orlando, Florida. Dr Jeremiah’s focus was on forgiveness. God will forgive any and all of our sins (all we need to do is ask). Therefore why should we not forgive others for their sins against us? This message struck a nerve with all of us. Obviously Brant Jean understands Gods guidance in our need to forgive. What an incredible you man!

  46. This will do more to bridge the racial divide than all the rioting protesting destroying of property and lives you can imagine. This is love like God tells us to have for our fellow man. I thank this young man I Thank this judge I thank everyone who refrained from destruction. This is what we (the world ) needs Let this be the beginning of ending racism.

  47. The quote: Change the world one act of kindness at a time.

    Maybe those atheists just need a hug too

  48. Praise God for two such people! You are so right Mr Max, we need to shine right where we are. We can spread a new “epidemic” the Love Of Jesus to all we encounter.

  49. I, as so many, feel the need for a Quiet Kindness Revolution. Our country and the world are in desperate need of this shift. Thank you, Max, for planting a seed, and thank you, Shelah, for watering the seed. I pray that many will do likewise. Too, may the presence of God’s kindness be manifested in more Courtrooms and in personal lives, with unconditional love.

  50. Love is where it all begins with God loving us from the beginning. The ultimate thing he went to the cross for a sinful world. Forgiveness. More and more he shows us daily through ordinary people like these two people. A lesson to be learned.

  51. …..And where was the mainstream media. We never heard about The Bible presentation by the compassionate judge until we found it here. Thanks Max Lucado for this moving “real life” story.

  52. I have heard so much controversy over this, Brandt said one thing I’m not speaking for my family but for myself, just like Salvation is personal, so is forgiveness… what we saw on national TV was true compassion and love being displayed. Yes Amber does have to pay for what she did, but she can find forgiveness and love in Jesus if she truly wants it… I pray for them all…

  53. I admire the judge showing compassion in this world of what had become hatred society! The law suit should b dismissed!!!
    We r commanded to live one another. This judge is an example of that.

  54. Brandt is a remarkably mature young man who is setting an excellent example for the world. Heavenly Father no doubt is bursting at the seams with pride. I hope believers everywhere take his actions to heart. Too much bitterness in the body of YShua.

  55. Mark 8:38 – “If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Bravo to both for shining love and bringing glory to the name of the Father!

  56. The “Light” once again entering into a darkened world…do they not see? While I pray the judge will not lose her job over this, if she does however, I hope she feels it was worth it. This just may be one of the purposes God predestined for her, before the foundation of the world. Doesn’t feel good at all, but being persecuted for Christ’s sake, will be greatly rewarded.

  57. We need the LORD now more than ever. We have lost our humanity and we are no longer reflecting the Image of GOD who is Love and the Epitome of Forgiveness.

  58. It would be heaven on earth if this could/would be broadcast on the news and spark a Godly revival of our nation

  59. I understand compassion, I really do. If this were the other way around and it was a African American shooting a caucasian. The Judge wouldn’t have batted an eye at the accused and he would have got the max.

  60. Two Christians, in the same room, from different parts of the world, making a difference and the evening news, for all the world to see! I love it!

  61. Such compassion & forgiveness shown her & hope she seeks the Savior due to what transpired there. Biblical principles are basis of USA’s laws & Constitution; yet Atheists can’t see that they benefit, ironically, from Freedom of Expression provided by our biblical system!

  62. Jesus was in that courtroom on that day and all the atheists in this fallen world could not have stopped Him. Thank God that young man and the presiding judge both are Christians. Their behavior is an example of how we all should act every day. Thsnk you Max!!

  63. Amen! May God bless the teenager and the judge! A return to God’s way will be a return to a GREAT AMERICA! ❤️❤️

  64. Love has no boundaries. If a Christian had the boldness to love first, then give credit. If guidance and hope was offered by a loving Christian then give credit. The difference is who loves first. If an atheist or any other religion follower would have done it, then they would deserve to be acknowledged as doing the right thing. I am proud of what happens because it brings glory to God.

  65. I love everything about this post..from the victim’s younger brother to the judge, her hug, and her presentation of hope with her Bible to the accused and to Max’s comments. This is a dark, dark world that needs kindness and love to abound. It can only begin with us.

  66. Praise God for a teenager like Brandt. He showed us how our world need love and forgiveness, not hatred. Thank you Judge, Kemp for showing compassion and standing tall for your faith. Sharing this article in my feed.

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