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Opinion: What to make of the hug heard ‘round the world

Unless you’ve been utterly removed from civilization, by now you have witnessed the hug heard ‘round the world:

For those who won’t watch the full statement and who skip ahead to the miraculous 2:29 mark on the video, you will likely be left with a sense of astonishment, awesome wonder, and even bewildered confusion. You’re left asking:

  • How could he do that?
  • How can someone embrace their brother’s murderer?
  • How could he be the one to initiate it?

That type of mercy and forgiveness is totally antithetical to human nature. So where did it come from, how does this 18-year-old possess it, and how could I ever experience that kind of spirit myself? Brandt Jean tells you the answer to all those questions in his statement preceding the embrace.

I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past. Each and every one of us may have done something that we’re not supposed to do. If you truly are sorry, I know, I can speak for myself, I, I forgive you. And I know if you got to God and ask Him, He will forgive you. And I don’t think anyone can sit, again I’m speaking for myself not even on behalf of my family. But I love you just like anyone else. And I’m not gonna say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did. But I personally want the best for you, and I wasn’t gonna 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 for you. And the best would be give your life to Christ. I’m not gonna say anything else. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do. Again, I love you as a person. And I don’t wish anything bad on you. I don’t know if this is possible, but can I, can I give her a hug please? Please?

His carefully chosen words, his cautiously articulated statement made it abundantly clear what made this moment possible: the inexplicable work of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside a regenerated, born-again heart. Brandt made it very clear that his peace in the midst of grief came through Christ, and she could find the same peace for her guilt only in Christ.

When we Christians say the only hope for America is Jesus, this is what we mean. Or it’s what we should mean.

It’s not that civil societies can’t function if the population isn’t entirely Christian.

It’s not that one must accept Christ’s free gift of salvation in order to be a polite or productive citizen.

It’s not that apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, an individual can’t be an honest public servant.

It’s the simple truth that the only sustaining force for free societies is the civic virtue of the people. That is, our capacity to make our own interests secondary to the best interest of others, our willingness to tolerate the differences that exist between us, our ability to forgive the faults and shortcomings of our neighbor, and a disposition that extends charity rather than contempt to those who hurt us.

Where does such a finely-tuned moral grounding originate? The Father of the nation, George Washington wrote it himself in his Farewell Address: “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality will prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Consider the contrast: the same day Brandt Jean was hugging Amber Guyger, President Donald Trump was profanely tweeting contempt at his political enemies. And not without provocation, of course. For three years Trump has faced a relentless barrage of scurrilous attacks on his legitimacy and withering character assassinations.  Both sides suffer from an appalling lack of goodwill towards their enemies.

Yet there is Brandt Jean – having been wronged by Amber Guyger far worse than Trump has been hurt by his media foes, and far worse than Hillary Clinton fans have been wounded by The Donald – extending grace to his brother’s killer. Unmerited grace…imagine how much our country would be blessed if our people started extending it to one another.

There’s a sense that the cultural/political polarization that has manifested in this era is both dangerous and unsustainable. So much so that it is hardly a leap to say our only hope of survival is to inject a little Brandt Jean into our cultural bloodstream.

Except as he pointed out himself, it isn’t really Brandt Jean. It’s who lives inside him. It’s Jesus.