It was a massive surprise for my wife and me when the sonographer turned the TV screen and announced, you are having twins. It was like winning the lottery, well, kind of. My twins are now amazing young women with their careers. I collect stories about twins. This story comes from before the Great War, from a town in the Midwest. You know the type of town – a railway track, main street and the Department Store.
The twin boys were born to the Department Store owner. They were inseparable, identical; the locals would say that they never married because of their close friendship. They eventually inherited the successful store. All was going well until one day after one of the twins had served a customer, he left a dollar bill on the counter for a moment and stepped into the storeroom. The dollar bill vanished. He queried his brother, had he picked the bill up? To which the brother replied no, not at all. Hours later, he questioned again; both became defensive. The defensiveness became an argument, the argument turned into a deep grudge, a feud began, and the relationship started to breakdown. Eventually, the brothers separated the store into two separate shops. Constant competition and twenty years of bitterness ate into their lives.
One day a car with out of state plates parked outside the two shops. The driver walked into one of the shops and inquired of the grey-haired shop owner, how long he had been there. He explained he had been at the shop for decades.
“I have the right person,” the man said. “20 years ago, I had lost my way, wrong choices, came into town on the train, ambled into your shop and saw a dollar bill on the counter and took it. I was so hungry that I snatched it, disappeared out of the back door, and clambered onto the next boxcar. It always bothered me. I am now a Christian and have returned to pay back the money, and any reimbursements. I apologize for what I did. To the man’s surprise, the owner began to weep; he asked him to go next door, there stood another, identical, grey-haired elderly gentleman. He told the story, and both brothers wept.
Forgiveness brings healing, but bitterness, grudges, and resentments imprison us. Jesus taught on the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7) Is your faith authentic? Are you merciful? Are you forgiving? Or do you hold grudges as your treasured possessions? Forgiveness and mercy are at the heart of the Christian faith, as one of my friends said this week,
“Forgiveness is really, really important to God and our spiritual health.”