It’s Never Too Late

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

Two of the greatest professional basketball players in history are Bob Cousy and Bill Russell. Gary Pomerantz recently wrote an article in The New York Times about their relationship. It carried a great lesson about forgiveness.

Bob Cousy is white – Bill Russell is black. They came together to form a dynasty for the Boston Celtics. They won 6 NBA championships during their 7 seasons!

Cousy was some kind of guard. He handled the ball, dribbled, made passes and shots that brought big smiles. Russell was an excellent shot blocker, defensive genius, and could score when the Celtics needed it. I remember trying to emulate Cousy on the court, because he liked dribbling and shooting. I didn’t relate as well to Russell because he liked defense!

During that time together, 1956 – 1963, The Civil Rights Movement was growing. Cousy and Russell never discussed politics, civil rights, or their personal lives. Bill Russell underwent immense racial bias and discrimination. Bob Cousy never stepped up and let him know that he was in his corner and had his back.

When Cousy retired in 1963, the Celtics gave him a banquet. Bill Russell decided to give him a personal gift. He made some good statements about him and gave him a nice clock. It was the only gift that he received from any of his teammates. Bill Russell spoke positively about their relationship, and the inscription on the clock read, “May The Next Seventy Be As Pleasant As The Last Seven. From The Russells to the Cousys.”

Today Cousy and Russell live 3,000 miles apart. Cousy felt badly that he never stood up for Bill Russell. Cousy didn’t make any racial slurs or join in any racial discrimination. He didn’t do anything wrong- he just didn’t do what was right! He recently wrote him an honest letter asking for forgiveness for not letting him know that he had his back. That’s 53 years – but it wasn’t too late.

Do you remember a playoff baseball game in 2003 when the Chicago Cubs were on the edge of having a shot at the World Series? Steve Bartman, a Cubs fan, was sitting in the stands near the left field line. He interfered with a foul ball that cost the Cubs the game and a World Series opportunity. People in Chicago hated him and wanted him banned from future games.

But it’s never too late to forgive. When the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series – 13 years later – they awarded a World Series ring to him. The Cubs issued a statement, “We hope this provides closure on an unfortunate chapter of our story.” It’s never too late to ask for or give forgiveness.

Moses was 40 years old and committed murder. For the next 40 years he grieved over that. He then asked God for forgiveness and received it, and God began to use him for dramatic leadership at the age of 80! It’s never too late to ask for forgiveness.

Living with an incident when you did something unjust to someone else, or you were the recipient of an unjust act, can be detrimental to your physical, emotional, and spiritual health if you don’t deal with forgiveness. To carry unforgiveness in your heart is like inviting someone to come live in your mind – rent free.

Bob Cousy failed to act – but 53 years later, wrote a letter. A clock and a letter reunited two great basketball players that shaped history. Is there somebody you need to write, or give a clock to?

Forgiveness doesn’t change the past – but it does change the future!


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