The Real Story is Grace, Mercy, and Forgiveness

Thinking over the Gospel and the cross this Passion Week brought this inspiring story to memory:

In 1984 twenty-two year old college student Jennifer Thompson identified Ron Cotton as her rapist.  On her testimony, he was convicted and sentenced to fifty years in prison.  While in prison, he found that another inmate, Bobby Poole, had confessed to a cell-mate that HE had committed the crime.

Cotton won a new trial, but was convicted again, this time for two life sentences.   Finally, after eleven years, DNA evidence provided the proof he needed.  He was found innocent and Poole guilty.

When Thompson heard the news, she was overcome with guilt and asked to meet with Cotton.  She describes the scene as she entered the church where they had agreed to meet:

“I started to cry immediately. And I looked at him, and I said, ‘Ron, if I spent every second of every minute of every hour for the rest of my life telling you how sorry I am, it wouldn’t come close to how my heart feels. I’m so sorry.’ And Ronald just leaned down, he took my hands…and he looked at me, he said, ‘I forgive you,'” Thompson remembered.

“I told her, I said, ‘Jennifer, I forgive you. I don’t want you to look over your shoulder. I just want us to be happy and move on in life,'” Cotton recalled.

Thompson further describes the healing of mercy . . .

“The minute he forgave me, it’s like my heart physically started to heal. And I thought, ‘This is what grace and mercy is all about. This is what they teach you in church that none of us ever get.’ And here was this man that I had hated. I mean, I used to pray every day of my life during those eleven years that he would die. That he would be raped in prison and someone would kill him in prison. That was my prayer to God. And here was this man who with grace and mercy just forgave me,” Thompson told Stahl. “How wrong I was, and how good he is.”

I know this story. You and I are the characters. Sound familiar? A wrongfully-accused man suffers unjustly because of us, and instead of revenge, justice, and retaliation, he offers us grace, mercy, and forgiveness. He gives us what we don’t deserve, we don’t expect, and wouldn’t give if we were in His place.

How good He is, and how wrong we are.

(Read the entire story at CBSnews)

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11 thoughts on “The Real Story is Grace, Mercy, and Forgiveness

  1. That is a beautiful story. A similar story that I heard while watching the Oprah show was about a man, Kent Whitaker, who forgave the man who murdered his wife and youngest son (the man who murdered them happened to be his eldest son). I couldn’t even imagine being faced with such an obstacle. His forgiveness is a powerful example of the perfect love and forgiveness that God has for everybody. I later found out that Kent wrote a book about his experience. I went out and bought it immediately. I have so much respect for people who can show this kind of forgiveness.

    • You’re right, Becky. Kent’s story is amazing! Thanks for sharing the link.

      These kinds of stories are examples that when we share grace with others, we are reflections of the pure grace God has shown to us.

      on a side note – I probably should have mentioned in my post that Cotton and Thompson are now friends and have co-written a book about their experiences, “Picking Cotton.”

  2. People who choose not to forgive,pay the greter price. Unforgiveness is like a cancer that eats away at our vital organs. (our spiritual life) I for one know the sweet release of what forgiveness can bring. It is wonderful to receive forgiveness, but greater still to be able to forgive. I can choose to forgive and be an overcomer or choose to be bitter and die by self-destruction.
    Daddy

    • That’s true. Unfortunately, too many people don’t realize that a lack of forgiveness hurts themselves as much or more than the person they hate.

  3. i have a version of the king james bible that was handed down to my mother phyllis that was passed down from her mother my grand mother could you give me good estimate as to how old this bible is it was as far as i know brought from england from cambridge university my great grandmother brought it over her last name was carpenter and we dont know what her maiden name was.

    • Randy,

      Without viewing the Bible it would be difficult to guess its age, and I would be a poor choice at any rate.

      The only things that come to my mind that might help are
      1) Printing date – often found in the early pages of a Bible.
      2) In four various revisions of printing variants, the archaic spelling has changed. The spelling of certain words might help pinpoint the particular revision you have, thus helping with the date.

      However there are several reasons #2 might not help.
      *The last revision was in 1769 so unless your Bible is VERY old this point won’t help.
      *Also, since it is from Great Britain, it might be more difficult to determine spelling changes. With some words, the British still favor an alternate spelling from “American” English.

      I’m truly sorry I can’t be of more help. If anybody else knows of any suggestions, feel free to chime in.

  4. Isn’t it interesting how we are amazed at stories of ‘big forgiveness’ yet so often hang on to the little hurts. We have opportunities to forgive every day. I wonder if being able to forgive the small things on a regular basis will prepare us if we ever need to forgive something larger.

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