Josh Brent was one of the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive linemen and rising stars, while Jerry Brown, Jr. was a linebacker on the team’s practice squad. The two have been roommates since college; Brown was living with Brent since being signed by the Cowboys last October. Early Saturday morning, Brown was killed when the car being driven by Brent was wrecked. Brent was arrested on intoxication manslaughter charges and is now free on a $500,000 bond.
Monday night, Jerry Brown’s mother was interviewed by Piers Morgan on CNN. To the surprise of many, she said, “I know Josh Brent, and he’s been part of our family since Jerry went to the University of Illinois—all I can do is to pray for him and his family. I know [Brent] is hurting just as much as we are, because [he] and Jerry were like brothers.” She asked that Brent ride with her and sit with the family at Tuesday’s memorial service.
Brown’s father said that he has also forgiven Brent: “I’m not mad about him. I know that was his best friend, and he’s hurting, too. He’s hurting more than I am hurting. But I am hurt, too.” In addition, the Dallas Cowboys say they are standing behind Brent. He was greeted warmly by coach Jason Garrett at the team’s headquarters on Monday, who said the Cowboys are going to “support Josh 100 percent in every way that we can.”
Such expressions of forgiveness are as counter-cultural as they are biblical. And they make this point: Jerry Brown’s parents and teammates can forgive Josh Brent on a level those of us who are less affected by this tragedy cannot. Can I forgive you for sins you did not commit against me? How would a survivor of 9/11 feel if I were to issue a public statement forgiving al Qaeda? How would descendants of Holocaust victims respond to my decision to forgive the Nazis?
One of the strongest arguments for Jesus’ claim to be God was his willingness to forgive sins that had not (apparently) been committed against him. For instance, when he met the paralytic lowered through the roof he said to him, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20). The Pharisees responded, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (v. 21). Jesus’ pardon proved his divinity (vs. 22-25), so that “everyone was amazed and gave praise to God” (v. 26).
When we forgive those who have sinned against us, our grace proves the transforming reality of our faith in the One who forgives every sin we confess to him (1 John 1:9). Who needs a pardon only you can offer?