Last week, there was a fascinating story on CNN about forgiveness.
I’ll recap for you. On June 13, 1992, in the East River Projects in Manhattan, three drug dealers went looking for 17 year-old Wilfredo Colón, a rival crack dealer.
When they found their target, they shot him 13 times. Eight months later, the police arrested Michael Rowe and two other dealers. Rowe plead guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The murder devastated Colon’s little brother, Anthony, who was 15 at the time. His anger over the killing combined with his bitterness toward his parents for not having taken better care of their children, left him bitter toward the murderers, God, and himself.
It wasn’t until two years later when a friend brought him to church that he began to change his life and learn about the power of forgiveness. He later married, had two children, and became a restaurant owner.
Meanwhile, in prison, Rowe also transformed his life, first earning a high-school diploma, a college degree, and a Master’s degree. He got married and fathered three children, while in prison.
Both are incredible stories on their own, but it gets deeper. One day, in September 2006, while visiting a friend at a New York prison, Colon looked across the room and saw Michael Rowe. Startled and fearful, Rowe tried to duck and avoid Colon’s gaze.
But Colon walked straight up to him and said these remarkable words: “Brother, I’ve been praying for you. I forgave you. I’ve been praying I would see you again.”
Wow, could you imagine? Well, Rowe couldn’t. It took him minutes before he could come to grips with what was happening and shake the outstretched hand of the brother of the man he’d murdered.
And the rest is even more remarkable. The two have become close as brothers. Colon was actually there to put on Rowe’s robe when he received his Masters degree in prison, and Colon was there last week when Rowe was released after two decades.
The two will even work together at Exodus Transitional Community Center in Harlem.
What a story, Anthony Colon is an incredible human being. You see, he recognizes that his forgiveness was as much about himself as the man who wronged him.
In light of this story, think about some of the silly grudges we currently hold against our loved ones.
Forgive somebody today. Also, let us know who you are forgiving. You don’t have to give names, but just let us know how long you’ve held the grudge and why.
I’ll leave you with these words from the late theologian Lewis B. Smedes:
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
Here are some of the things TJMS listeners are choosing to forgive. (See below)
I forgive my ex-husband for cheating on me with our good friend, fathering a child with her, marrying her and forgetting he has teenage children with me. I also forgive my gay cousin who tried to introduce my 17-year-old son to his lifestyle and having me arrested for confronting him about it.
I forgive a man who raped me when I was only 9-years-old. That was over 24 years ago. He is now out of prison.
I forgive my oldest child’s dad for leaving me for another man some years ago. Also, I am thanking him because my husband now is the true MAN of my dreams.
Tom, I forgive my sister for showing out at my wedding. I celebrate my 1 year anniversary next month and I haven’t spoken to her since.
I forgive the two men that abducted and raped me on my way to school when I was 17.
I forgive Sister Olivia for molesting me when I was boy. I spent my entire life learning how to trust women. Especially the leaders in church.
I forgive my wife for being the evil, hateful, selfish person that she is.