Earlier this week, "forgiveness" was trending on Twitter.
A powerful story of forgiveness captured the hearts of many Americans this week as Brandt Jean hugged his brother's murderer, Amber Guyger, at her sentencing. Before that hug, Jean made a statement forgiving Guyger for her actions, saying that he loved her and that he wished her well.
Speaking for myself, this display of forgiveness was a conviction. I don't know what it's like to lose a loved one so tragically, but I can imagine that facing the convicted murderer of my brother would be too much to bear. But where everyone expected to see anger and vengeance, there was nothing but peace, forgiveness and love.
An Impossible Love
The love that Brandt Jean showed Amber Guyger was an impossible love, apart from divine intervention. Were it not for the love of Christ and the work of the Spirit in his heart, anger would have consumed him. Only a man of God, who himself knows the extent of Christ's love and work of redemption, could utter the words that Jean spoke in grace to his brother's murderer.
Oh, how He has loved us with an impossible love, in that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) Jesus went to the cross for stubborn, unapologetic, hate-filled sinners. For persecuters and murderers like Paul. For loud-mouthed deniers like Peter. For stubborn feet-draggers like me.
Christ sacrificed glory for shame. He intervened with grace and mercy for chronic mistake-makers and wretched criminals. He touched outcast lepers and spoke gently to those who blatantly mocked him. His love is impossible for sinners like us to replicate, but a glimpse of that love was imitated in the grace-filled words of Brandt Jean.
The World Will Not Understand
Since Jean and Guyger's iconic hug in that courtroom, backlash immediately ensued. Some were upset that the judge also participated in this show of divine love and grace. Some were upset by the sentencing itself. Others were angry about all this talk of the power of forgiveness and felt that Jean shouldn't have had compassion on Guyger because of racial implications.
Without the Spirit's work in the hearts of believers, none of us would understand this display of forgiveness. 1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us that our human nature does not accept or understand the things of the Spirit, but considers them foolishness. The world will not understand why and how Brandt Jean could forgive Amber Guyger, because the world does not understand the Holy Spirit's work. And "there, but for the grace of God, go I." (John Bradford)
I'd like to think that if I had to take the stand in this sort of scenario, I'd have the strength to speak grace and love to the guilty party. I pray that God would grow my heart to be more understanding and filled with the kind of love that can only come from His Spirit. And I pray that this powerful, impossible love, this beautiful imitation of Christ, would shine a light as bright as Brandt Jean's shone on the glorious work He has accomplished for sinners.