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The Hug Heard Around the World

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“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25)

On Wednesday, we experienced the hug heard around the world. The hug took place in the most unlikely place, in an American Courtroom. Amber Guyger was a police officer in Dallas, Texas. She came home, but mistakenly entered the apartment on the wrong floor, and was confronted by the apartment’s rightful owner, Botham Jean. While Botham did not react defensively, Amber attacked and shot Botham to death. Only after the shooting did she realized her horrific mistake.

After Guyger was found guilty, with many people feeling the pain of injustice, including the victim’s family, that Officer Guyger received only 10 years in prison, with possible parole in five years, a miraculous act took place at Guyger’s sentencing. While on the stand, the victim’s brother, Brandt Jean, who is only 18 years old, said, “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug, please? Please?” Brandt Jean came down in front of the bench and Guyger ran into his arms and they had a long embrace. The hug didn’t mean Brandt Jean thought Amber Guyger should be exonerated, or that her sentence should even be suspended. The hug seemed to mean that he still saw her as a person, created by God, who was suffering and had a painful road ahead. It was an act of forgiveness, while still acknowledging the need for accountability.

The Jean family are people of faith. They were raised to be Christian people, whose lives were based on Christ’s principles of forgiveness and grace. Their beliefs were put to the test in the most horrendous way. They also were not suffering in a vacuum. The African-American community was outraged that a white woman was given 10 years for murder, when the sentence could have been as high as 99 years. Further, Jean’s lawyer said, “Black and brown people have served more than 10 years for marijuana offenses, and this woman committed murder.” All that aside, in that moment, this 18-year-old young man expressed more empathy than hatred, and left the world to ponder the lengths of Christian grace, forgiveness, and love.

Today, we are left to ponder this prophetic expression of forgiveness. Brandt Jean’s simple act of offering a hug, and Amber Guyger’s acceptance, running into his arms, began the process of healing both, and took the Dallas community’s tension down enough to discuss, rather than yell, opposition. Often the greatest healing comes during the greatest pain. As we continue to pray for the Jean and Guyger families, we must pray for ourselves as we ask somewhere deep inside, “Would we have hugged her?”