In a remarkably touching interview on CNN, the family of Robert Godwin Sr., whose murder was posted in a Facebook video expressed an amazing profession of faith while talking about the killer, Steve Stephens, and God's forgiveness. Debbie Godwin and Tonya Godwin Baines, the man's daughters, were interviewed by Anderson Cooper Monday.
"I wasn't going to ask you," Cooper said, "but since you brought this person up, but I'm not going to use this person's name in front of you, but if this person is out there listening, what do you want them to know? Obviously, you want them to turn themselves in, but what do you want to say to them?"
"I would say turn yourself in, that would be number one," Debbie Godwin responded, "I mean because although I do believe in forgiveness, I do believe in the law, meaning, when you break the law, there's a penalty for breaking the law. And this man broke the law by taking my father's life."
"And so although I forgive him," she explained, "there is still a penalty that he must pay for what he did to my dad. And so I would want him to turn himself in. And you know what, I believe that God would give me the grace to even embrace this man. And hug him.
"Without anything, I truly do," she continued. "It's just the way my heart is, it's the right thing to do. And so, I just would want him to know that even in his worst state, he's loved, you know, by God, that God loves him, even in the bad stuff that he did to my dad. That he's still loved. And that he has some worth while, even though he's gonna have to go through many things to get better, there's worth in him."
"And as long as there's life in him, there is hope for him too," Godwin concluded. "I do believe that."
The daughter of the Facebook murder victim has a message for the killer: I want him to know that "he's loved by God" https://t.co/1lbr6fXvsX
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) April 18, 2017
In the latter part of the interview, Cooper seems affected by their words of forgiveness.
"The thing that I would take away the most from my father is he taught us about God," Tonya Godwin Baines said. "How to fear God. How to love God. And how to forgive. Each one of us forgives the killer. The murderer."
"You do?" Cooper asked.
"We want to wrap our arms around him," she said.
"We absolutely do," Debbie Godwin explained. "I honestly can say right now that I hold no animosity in my heart against this man. Because I know that he's a sick individual. I know that because of his sickness, whatever evil overtook him that caused him to do this to my dad, it's not him. It wouldn't be something he would typically do, and I promise you, I could not do that, if I did not know God.
"If I didn't know Him as my God and my savior, I could not forgive that man. And I feel no animosity against him at all. Actually, I feel sadness for him. I do."
"We've lost our dad, but this mother lost her son," Tonya added. "Lost her children. His children lost her dad."
"That's incredible, Tonya," Cooper said, "that you think about that even in your time of grief, that you're thinking about them."
"It's just what our parents taught," Godwin Baines said. "It's not just that they taught us, they did it. They lived it."
"My dad would be really proud of us, and he would want this from us, and he would say, 'Tonya, forgive him, because they know not what they do,'" she added, referring to a verse from Scripture.
"Debbie, you know you talked about how," Cooper told them. "Tonya, you talked about how your friends growing up said they wished they were Godwins. I think a lot of people watching tonight, and I know I certainly speak for myself, I wish I was a Godwin right now, because you all represent your dad very well."
"Thank you so much, I wish peace and strength in the days ahead," he said.
Stephens, the killer of 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr., posted a video of the attack that shocked America. He is currently being hunted by the police.
Debbie Godwin posted this picture of her father.
This is me and my dad on Father's Day 2015. #RobertGodwinSr RIP. https://t.co/B2X0suE4AR— MinisteringLove (@MinisteringLove) 1492416988.0