The Real Story is Grace, Mercy, and Forgiveness

Reposted from 2015

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.

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