As a magazine editor, publicists send all sorts of books to my desk for reviews or coverage. Many times, they’re off topic for our mission; sometimes you see excerpts from them in our pages.

This summer, I got one I couldn’t put down.

It’s called Convicted: A Crooked Cop, an Innocent Man, and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship, released in September. It’s about a corrupt narcotics officer who sends an innocent man to prison—then gets tapped for falsifying evidence and spends three years in the federal slammer himself.

It sounds like a novel, or a Hollywood script. But this is a true story—and it doesn’t end there.

With plot twists only God could write, it turns out that Andrew Collins (the cop) and Jameel McGee (the innocent man) are about the same age. They each have one child—Collins a daughter, McGee a son—who are also close in age. They each invited Jesus into their hearts when they were young, but didn’t know what it meant to truly surrender to him as Lord until they found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

You’ll read more about them starting on page 18. But to sum up: In 2006, McGee was on his way to buy milk for the infant son he was about to meet for the first time. He asked someone he didn’t know well—a friend of a family member, who just happened to be there at the time—for a ride to the store. He didn’t know the friend was a drug dealer, and another criminal had just set him up to be busted by Collins.

When they arrived at the store, McGee went inside for the milk. In the meantime, Collins and his partner arrived and spotted the car. It matched the description the snitch had given them—but the driver didn’t. When cocaine was found the driver lied and said it belonged to McGee.

So Collins arrested McGee—and when he discovered he had the wrong guy, he simply changed the information on his report to make it look like he had the right one.

Over the next three years, both men’s lives radically changed. McGee planned to find Collins and beat him to death at his first opportunity. But one day, he heard God whispering to his spirit to simply let it go. And as the days passed, he learned to forgive, from his heart.

When Collins was arrested, everyone he’d put behind bars—including McGee—was released. Though most in his disgraced position would likely move their family somewhere else to start fresh, upon his release, Collins felt God was calling him back to the town where he’d served on the police force to make amends. So he went.

Nine years after their first meeting, Collins was working in a church-run coffee house, and McGee was living on the streets. When he entered a job-placement program, a counselor paired McGee with a mentor: Andrew Collins.

Since then, the two have experienced not just the healing that comes from true repentance and honest forgiveness, but are now close friends and brothers in Christ.

Their story reminds me that reconciling a broken situation always takes two parties—one to repent for wrongdoing, and one to forgive. That means it’s not always possible.

But the freedom that comes from forgiving? You don’t need an apology from anyone for that. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you can choose to free yourself—no matter what’s been done, how much it cost you, or how much it hurt. Forgiving keeps our hearts clean before God, releases His blessing over our lives and prevents the enemy from gaining a foothold in our spirits.

Forgiving isn’t always easy, and often involves a process—but it’s always, always right.

Originally published in the December 2017 issue of Citizen magazine.