It was the last weekend of the 1964 baseball season. Bill Valentine was umpiring a game between the Detroit Tigers and the New York Yankees.
Dave Wickersham was pitching for Detroit, and he had 19 victories for the season. One more would be a sign of stardom. But it wasn’t to be.
After a close play, Wickersham tapped the umpire on the shoulder to ask for a time-out. Touching an umpire is against the rules, so Valentine tossed Wickersham from the game – depriving him of his chance for a 20-win season.
For the next 39 years, Valentine lived with a gnawing regret for booting the pitcher in that split-second decision. But he doesn’t carry that regret anymore. In 2002 Wickersham wrote the umpire a note, telling him he was right in his decision and that he held no hard feelings. That note lifted a weight from Valentine’s shoulders.
In Genesis 45, Joseph lifted a burden of guilt from his brothers, who had sold him into slavery – something far more serious than a simple misunderstanding. Yet he was willing to forgive them. Are you?
When I was a kid I lived right on Main St. (US 6) in Butler. I had a friend who lived a couple of blocks away on the same street. We hung out a lot. One summer day his cat got hit on the busy highway and we took it out behind his house, in a field, and buried it. We had a childish funeral service and went our way.
A couple of weeks later we were passing by that spot and decided to dig it up and see how it was doing. We meant well, but learned a valuable lesson. We were more concerned about what we would see than what we would smell. It didn’t take us long to get that cat re interred and never went back again.
That was a gruesome experience for us boys. But the lesson was simple: once you’ve buried something, let it lie. Digging it up from time to time just doesn’t help. And so it is with our sins. When they are buried, we must let them lie. Digging them up again only brings up what once was there. Leave the cat buried!
Following is a letter written by a real person: “I found my husband with another woman. Although he begged me for forgiveness I wanted my pound of flesh, so I filed for divorce, even though our kids asked me not to. Two years later my husband was still trying to get me back, but I wanted none of it. He’d hurt me and I wanted revenge. Finally, he gave up, married a young widow with 2 children and rebuilt his life without me. They’re all so happy, and I’m just a lonely, miserable woman who let bitterness ruin her life.”
There is no question that infidelity is wrong. But without forgiveness,bitterness is all that’s left! There comes a point at which anger is no longer just an emotion – its a driving force. Like cocaine, you need larger and more frequent doses. Once that happens, you move even further from forgiveness, because without your anger you’ve no source of energy at all. It’s what drives hate groups like the KKK and the Skinheads.
God says, “Forgive anyone who does you wrong…as Christ has forgiven you” (Colossians 3:13), because bitterness is fatal.
Back during the days of the Cold War following World War II, victorious Russia, not trusting anybody, blockaded the capitol city of Berlin between West Berlin, under the control of the American Army, and East Berlin, under the control of the Russian Army. There was tense hostility between the two cities and the now-infamous Berlin Wall was soon to be constructed. To demonstrate their dislike of the free West, the communists in East Berlin one day took a truck load of garbage and dumped it across the line into West Berlin.
The people of the West could have retaliated, but instead dumped a truckload of valuable food supplies over onto the East Berlin side. Above it they placed a sign: ‘EACH GIVES WHAT HE HAS’.
What do you have to give your enemy? Bitterness and resentment, or grace and blessing. The choice will be determined by what’s really in our heart. Think about it.
This is a true story. A lady in Florida was raped, shot in the head, brutally mutilated and left to die. Astoundingly, she survived the ordeal. Her head wound left her permanently blinded. In a television interview the host was reflecting on the bitterness she must feel because of the unhealing scars she would have to deal with the rest of her life. Her astonishing reply: “On, no! That man took one night of my life, but I refuse to give him one additional second!”
We cannot undo the past. We cannot change what has happened to us. But we do not have to allow past abuses to be continual abuses. We can take the hurt and memories and give them to God, never to allow them to control us. We can fight a good fight against Satan by not permitting him to do any further damage to our soul. I am free! Release it to God.
Corrie ten Boom told about a little girl who once broke a beatiful antique cup of her mother’s. She was very sad about it and took the pieces to her mother. Her mother said, “I can see that you are very sorry. I forgive you. Throw the pieces in the trash can.”
The next day the little girl saw the pieces in the trash can. She took them out and again went to her motehr and said: “Mommy, yesterday I broke this cup. Please forgive me.”
“Leave those pieces in the trash can and only remmeber the forgiveness,” her mother said.
Are we not like the little girl sometimes? We ask God for forgiveness again and again for the same sin. We keep dregging up memories of it, but God doesn’t.
We are guilty! God knows it. What penalty does that deserve? The death penalty? Jesus paid it. What more can he do? Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or ‘Take up your bed and walk’? Since you’ve already been forgiven, pick up your bed and start walking like Christ!
Isidore Zimmerman served 25 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Because of false testimony at his trial, he was convicted of killing a New York policeman. In time, however, his innocence was proven, and in 1962 he was released. But did he “live happily ever after”? No.
Even though he had been innocent all along, Zimmerman couldn’t escape the stigma of being an ex-convict. What few jobs he could get soon ended when employers learned that he had served time. His record was cleared, but society did not fully accept him.
What a striking contrast to our standing with God when we trust Jesus as our Savior! We are guilty. Yet on the merits of Jesus’ sinless life and atoning sacrifice, we are not only declared righteous, but we are fully restored to favor with our heavenly Father.
“Having been justified by His grace, we [have] become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7).