Share This Episode
Family Life Today Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine Logo

Not Judging, Just Stating Facts? Philip Yancey

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
May 27, 2024 5:15 am

Not Judging, Just Stating Facts? Philip Yancey

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1298 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

May 27, 2024 5:15 am

From critiquing someone's outfit, to dismissing ideas in meetings, or commenting on eating habits--our judgments can shape lives. Philip Yancey explores how grace, instead, can alter lives for the better.

Show Notes and Resources

Connect with Philip Yancey and catch more of their thoughts at

...And grab Philip Yancey's book, What's So Amazing About Grace in our shop.

Intrigued by today's episode? Think deeper about forgiveness by listening to Take Off, Put On: Forgiveness.

Want to hear more episodes by Philip, listen here!

Double your gift this month when you give to FamilyLife!

Find resources from this podcast at

See resources from our past podcasts.

Find more content and resources on the FamilyLife's app!

Help others find FamilyLife. Leave a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

Check out all the FamilyLife's podcasts on the FamilyLife Podcast Network


Hey, before we get started, we've got a question for you. How can we pray for you?

I love this question. Because we talk about a lot of serious things here on Family Life today, and those details about our families, they often need our prayers. So can we pray for you?

We're serious. Yeah, so here's how you can let us know. Text FLT plus your prayer request to 80542 to let us know and it would be our privilege to pray for you. That's text FLT plus your prayer request to 80542. We want to pray for you. Okay, I don't say this every time on Family Life today, but, and I'm not exaggerating, one of my favorite authors in all the universe is sitting in our studio yet again. Who has shaped us in a lot of different ways, and especially you as a skeptic and a doubter and someone struggling when you were younger in your faith.

Yeah, thanks for telling everybody I'm a struggling doubter. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

This is Family Life Today. Phil Bianci is sitting in our studio, came all the way from Colorado. You love Colorado.

I do love Colorado. We're going to talk about one of the books you wrote, What's So Amazing About Grace. What year was that? That would have been 25 years ago.

So I spent a good chunk of last year going back and revising and updating it because the situation of grace is more urgent now than it was 25 years ago. 25 years ago, things were looking pretty good. The Berlin Wall had fallen. Everybody said, let's get along. And this one historian said, this is the end of history.

Everybody has decided for liberal democracy. And boy, that's not the way it is now. We have a very divided country. We've got a very divided world and there's a lot of ungrace. That's a word I coined, but it's everywhere.

There's ungrace everywhere in the world right now. It's true. Yeah. Did you have to revise quite a bit?

I mean, is it the same book or is it a lot different? Will we recognize it? Oh, sure. It's really a matter of coming up with stories that people who were born 20 years ago would understand. For instance, we talk about Yugoslavia. Because when I wrote this book originally, there were wars being fought in Yugoslavia. Well, now there is no Yugoslavia. And young people say, Yugoslavia, what's that?

There's Kosovo and there's Croatia and Serbia, seven different countries that used to be Yugoslavia. Of course, Jesus told stories and it's just a matter of retelling some of his stories and updating the ones that are tied to our era. So it's pretty much the same book, but just trying to make it a little more current, especially for younger readers. I mean, when you first wrote this topic, because when I mentioned your books changed my life, Disappointment with God, I love the Jesus I never knew. I mean, I hate to tell you, but I preached it. I just took a chapter and preached it. I didn't say it was my material. I gave you credit, but I remember doing a Christmas service on your Christmas chapter about the arrival of Jesus.

It was so beautiful. Anyway, I'm getting off on a tangent. But when you think back to, I've got to write a book on grace, can you take us there?

Why? Yeah, I was just struck. I started asking people, like in a doctor's lounge or on an airplane, when I say the word Christian, or when I say the word evangelical Christian, what comes to your mind?

First thing. And they would come up with things like self-righteous or moral or these kinds of words or angry sometimes. But nobody said anything like, there are people who give you the benefit of the doubt. They're gracious people. They're grace-filled people.

In fact, from what I gathered, they saw us as kind of a little superior looking down, holier than thou. I would hear that, holier than thou. And I thought, man, that's not the gospel at all. It's not Jesus, is it?

No. I mean, Jesus said, there's only one standard of holy, and that's the Father. And if you don't match that standard, then you have failed. And yet we're going around like the Pharisees did in Jesus' day and saying, well, okay, I'm not perfect, but I'm better than 99% of the people over there. Look at that sinner over there. And Jesus just took that on. And when I was writing to Jesus, who I never knew, in historical research, it was clear that belief-wise and even action-wise, Jesus was closer to the Pharisees than any other group.

What do you mean closer? Closer in terms of honoring the Old Testament laws, keeping them and being diligent, tithing, doing all these things, the religious things. But they had missed the whole point. The point wasn't to get God to like you more because you tithe more than the guy next to you. And he told that well-known story of the Pharisee and the sinner. And the Pharisee looks around, he's in the temple praying, and he sees this old sinner over there, and he says, oh, thank you, Lord, that I'm not like that guy over there. And the sinner has nothing to contribute and just says, God be merciful to me. And Jesus said, what prayer do you think God listens to?

And the answer is obvious. And I come to think that it's an intuitive thing, but I think that's kind of our native sin as Christians, because we're trying to flee away from grace so we can take credit ourselves. We like taking credit. And it's easy when you have even an experience where you're connected with God, it's easier to think, oh, that's pretty good, God chose me. I must've done something right to get God to like me. In churches, it's also easy to hang around people who are just like you, people who vote like you, think like you, smell like you. And that's not how you learn grace. It doesn't take much grace to be around people who are just like you. Where the rubber hits the road is when there are people who think you're crazy, who disagree with you, who think you're completely wrong on important issues.

So how do you handle those people? I go back through the way Jesus handled them. And it must've been so offensive to Jesus just to be on earth and to realize how poorly we live compared to what the Father had in mind by creating the planet earth in the first place. And Jesus looks around and he sees the violence and he sees the judgment and he sees divorce. He sees all these things that grieve him. And yet those are the people he goes to. He goes to the people who would be most offensive and doesn't treat them like an inferior person. He treats them like a thirsty person. Yeah.

What do you think has happened? I mean, I'll tell you this, maybe, do you remember the book UnChristian? It was a book written by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.

And it was sort of a research of, they went out and asked non-church people, what do you think of when you think of the church or people in the church? And they said, just what you said. And they literally had like maybe eight or nine characteristics and they wrote a chapter in each one. And I remember picking up this book.

This is probably 10, 15 years ago. And things like they're judgmental, they're hypocritical, too political, blah, blah, blah. I read it just on my own. Just like, this is interesting.

I want to, you know, what are the people that, I'm a pastor of a church, where are the people? And I'm reading it going, I agree. So I took it to our staff, our leadership team. I said, we got to read this book together. And I propose let's do a weekend series about this. Cause the book was really well done because it was like, here's what they're saying about us. And it's somewhat true.

And here's what the Bible says. So we decided to do a series called I'm Sorry. And it was basically, let's go through these and say to the crowd, bring your neighbors. We're going to say, we're sorry. If we've come across this way, this is not Jesus. We've missed it.

You won't believe this. So somehow WJR, you mentioned Mort Crim, he was a broadcaster in Detroit area. They reach out to us and say, we hear, you're a church. You're going to apologize. We want to ask you about this.

So I go on a radio show, a live show. And long story short is, hey, what's the series about? Well, I read this book. We're going to do this thing. We're going to say, we agree. What they say about us is true.

This is wrong. We're going to repent and say, we're sorry. Come hear our apology. And so the guy, and I thought it was a five minute interview. He goes, okay, we're done. He goes, hey, do you have a couple minutes?

I'm going to open the phone lines. And I'm like, well, I got to go to a meeting. And he goes, oh, just take a minute or two. I said, okay. So they go to break. He comes back on. He goes, wow. I don't know how to tell you this, but the phone lines are lighting up. Can you answer a lot of questions? I go, sure.

Let's go. Every single caller was a churchgoer yelling at me for apologizing. Yelling at you for apologizing. Basically, what are you apologizing?

They should be the ones that apologize. And I just was like, there it is, guys. Can you not see? This is our spirit. This is what we've become known for. You're judging me for trying to say, I want to be like Jesus. I don't think Jesus was like that. And I think if we explain who Jesus was, I think people are actually going to be drawn to that rather than repelled. And they're running away from, I thought, wow.

So that's my question is like, what has happened? I mean, maybe it's always been that way, but it feels heightened now. It was like that with the Pharisees.

Yeah. I think in the United States, we were blessed to have a period in our lifetime, some of us, you know, back in the 1950s, 1960s, when we were living off the success of World War II, almost all of the great Christian movement started back then, including, you know, Campus Crusade and World Vision. And you could just, you could list dozens. And there was a Christian consensus, a kind of an agreement in mainline churches and Catholics and evangelicals, whatever, and they all kind of agreed, well, this is good and this is bad and this is wrong and this is right. And nobody was really fighting against that. So there weren't the gender wars, there weren't the abortion wars, there weren't some of the political things.

And as culture changed, I think that the Christians who called in that day are representing a lot of people who say, they're taking our country away from us. Yeah. Well, there's something to be said about that. That is true. It's becoming a much more diverse society. So how do you live? How do we be a light in that?

Yes. Well, actually, that's what the gospel is all about. I mean, one time a Muslim man said to me, I've read the entire Quran and I can't find anything in it on how to be a minority as a culture. We like being the majority. So when we take power, we want the court system and the legislative system and the religious system to all be one. That's just the way we are. Yeah. And he said, I've read the entire New Testament and I can't find any advice on how to be a majority in a culture.

We're aliens. Yes. I mean, look at the image Jesus used of the kingdom. It's like a sprinkling of salt to keep a whole hunk of meat from going bad. It's like the smallest seed in the garden, not the largest, but the smallest.

And it's like a little bit of leaven that causes a whole loaf. He said, that's the way the kingdom of God is. It falls into the ground, but it creates a tree and it blossoms and the birds of the air come and nest in it. It changes society. And the United States was a beautiful example of that. Seeds had fallen, they prospered, but then the tree started producing strange fruit.

What do you do about that? Well, we haven't handled it very well. And because I get to travel internationally, especially as a journalist reporting, I can see places where the Christian community really stands out. I heard a statistic the other day that even today in sub-Saharan Africa, south of the Sahara, more than 50% of all the medical work is done by mission hospitals. And wherever the gospel went where it had not been before, you could just follow a trail. You see clinics and orphanages and hospitals and educational systems. That's what the gospel does.

It's like throwing those seeds in the ground and they sprout. And yet in the United States, it's kind of true in our history. So you go to most big cities and there's a Baptist hospital or a Catholic hospital or a Presbyterian hospital. They're still there, but there's no religious part of it left.

There's a YMCA, but there's really not much religion in most of those YMCAs, even though it's Young Men's Christian Association of Young Women. So we've got that recent historical memory and it's, as the callers would say, it's being taken away from us. And you're right. So what do we do about that? And my reading of the Bible is we do exactly what Paul told people to do.

Show how different you are. And in second Corinthians, there's a person who's not being very obedient and he's not in the church. And Paul says, what business of that is ours? We're not judges of the world.

Our job is to be different than the people around us. And that's how the early church spread. So in the Roman empire, if you had laid odds in 33 AD, okay, here's this guy, he came to earth, he claimed to be the Messiah, and then he was crucified. And there are a few people out there who think he actually rose from the dead, ha ha ha. That was kind of the attitude. And if you had laid odds, what would be the chance of that becoming a religion 2,000 years later that has 3 billion adherents?

They would say, what? Are you crazy? How did that happen? Well, it took about three centuries, not that long a period of time, to become majority in the Roman empire.

How did it happen? Sociologists tell you this, they've tracked it out, that when plague would hit a Roman town, which is pretty common back then, everybody would run into the hills to get away from it so they didn't get sick. So Christians would stay behind and they would nurse not only their families, but their pagan neighbors' families.

Huh, that kind of gets your attention. You come back and your mother is still alive because these Christians nursed her. What was birth control? They didn't really have abortion back in Roman times, so they had this practice called the abandonment of infants. They would just take a baby and leave it out by the side of the road, and either the weather or wild animals or whatever, it would die. That's how you got rid of babies you didn't want, which would be illegal in any country in the world.

This is nine months out of the wound, no question this is a human being. In Roman times, it was not a moral issue, but the Christians said, no, I think that is a moral issue. I think God wants us to love those people. So they started inviting them in.

They had platoons of wet nurses to keep milk flowing, to keep these babies alive, and then they would adopt them and have foster children. That's a good thing for church growth, picking up all these babies that nobody else wanted. In about 300 years, what happened was people looked at this, looked at these characteristics and said, I'd rather be like they are than like I am.

I want what they've got. And I think that's the beauty of the images Jesus gives us, the fruit of the Spirit. You look at somebody and say, boy, they're different. Other people get mad, they don't. Other people have trouble apologizing, they don't. Other people judge, they don't.

I want to be like one of those people. And so I'm concerned when I hear the description in a book like I'm Christian, because I don't see a lot of people going around saying, boy, I like the way Christians live. In fact, in our culture today, it's become so politicized. The New York Times, Washington Post, when they say the word evangelical, they're really talking about a voting block. They're not talking about theology.

They're talking about politics. I got to the point when I was preaching, I was careful about my language saying I'm an evangelical or I'm a Christian. Instead, say Christ follower, because the word Christian had a negative.

It's like, no, I don't know what you think, but it's not good when you hear that word. You hear Christ follower, it's like, oh, I like Christ. What I know about him, I like. You follow him, does that mean you're like him? Hopefully that's what it means, because he was a grace-giving leader.

Yes, and I feel torn on that very issue, especially the word evangelical, because the word means good news. There's a guy who's head of the National Association of Evangelicals. His name is Walter Kim. He's Korean descent, but raised here in the United States. He's the head of the evangelicals.

Every year, they have a worldwide conference, a worldwide evangelical council or something, and they all get together. Every country gets one vote. He's the United States. He gets one vote. Kenya gets one vote.

Little Tiny Gunner or somebody gets one vote. They were just kind of jumping all over him saying, we hear that Americans don't like the word evangelical anymore. Well, that's your problem. It means good news, and in my country, it means people who care for you, people who run the hospitals, people who reach out, people who dig wells for harmers who don't have wells. So we're keeping that word, because it hasn't been spoiled in our country yet, but in the United States, at least in the secular media, it is just kind of a political term.

And it's not that you don't call yourself a Christian or an evangelical. I definitely do. I'm just thinking we got to understand how that word is heard now. It's sad. It's so sad.

It is sad. And I like your, like Jesus follower is the word I use. Not everybody knows what the word Christ means, but Jesus, they've heard of that, Jesus follower. And it's kind of hard to argue with.

You're right. Jesus has a pretty good reputation, much better than the church. So when you think even what's so amazing about grace, how would you define it? Yeah, I try to avoid defining grace.

It's so slippery. What's it look like? Let me just talk about it, because Jesus' parables are parables of grace, but he never defines it. The classic definition is unmerited favor. What's that mean? It means you get something you don't deserve. You get the opposite of what you deserve. In our society, we're kind of ornery, independent Americans.

We like to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and we're a very ranking society. So you can, you want to know right away, okay, what's your job? Where'd you go to school? What kind of car do you drive?

What part of town do you live in? And you're making this kind of mental picture of this person. And we do that. Grace is the opposite of that. You don't climb. You don't achieve. You don't get it by scrambling. You get it by receiving. Henry Nouwen, the author, used to say, grace means having your hands open. It's a gift of God.

It's absolutely free. You can't do anything to deserve it, by definition. But you just have to have your hands open.

Because if you don't, like the Pharisees, if they're closed tight like a fist, the gift will fall to the ground, unreceived. That's a hard thing for us to do, to say we can't make it on our own. We've really messed up our lives. We need help.

We need outside help. Frankly, the recovery movement, people who struggle with drugs and alcohol, kind of illustrate that in secular terms, as well as anybody I know in religious terms. Because I've attended some 12-step groups with various people. And when you hear them, they start out with what's wrong with them. Hi, I'm Bob. I'm an alcoholic. Hi, I'm Judy. I'm a drug addict.

Whoa! But that's where you start. It's refreshing.

It really is. And they can spot a lie a mile away. You can't say, okay, I'm an alcoholic.

But Judy over there, she's a drug addict. They're all over you, man. They're all over you, man. They know. Christians aren't known like that. They're really known as people who are just a little better, good people, the kind of people you want as your neighbors.

But don't cross them because they're judgmental and they'll go after you. It's so hard. I remember reading Chuck Colson's biography for the first time. Here he was working in the White House, really right next to the president's office. And then he was put in prison because of Watergate stuff. And he did this whole Christian thing.

He couldn't figure it out. And he was reading C.S. Lewis.

And C.S. Lewis said, the worst sin is, and he expected to say some sexual thing or murder or whatever. He said, the worst sin is pride.

And that's at the root of so much of what we do. And grace doesn't know what to do with pride. It doesn't force itself on you. They say, okay, you're not ready for grace. Your hands aren't open.

They're closed tight. And unless we get to the place where you say, God help, I am a sinner. I need you. Then grace could fall to the ground. Phillip, when do you feel like you have experienced grace? Like I know as a believer over and over, it takes me to my knees because it feels so undeserving. Can you just recall, like, when do you feel like, man, this is when I felt it so powerfully? I'm sure there's multiple times. But does anything come to your mind?

Yes. The last time I was with you guys, I was talking about my memoir. It's a book called Where the Light Fell.

If you haven't read that, listeners, it is so good. And I tell the story of growing up in one of those churches. You know, we were our ranking church and like black people weren't allowed in our church.

People of color were not. And we thought we were so superior. You know, there were about a hundred of us in that church and we thought heaven may include maybe 125 people, but surely no more. You know, we had the truth.

We were more strict and more theological pure than any other church. And so that was my background. And God melted me because I went through that resistant skeptical stage too. And God melted me with what the theologians would call common grace. The three things that brought me back to God were the beauties of nature, because I had a real dysfunctional family and I would just go out and walk in the woods and just come across, you know, the azaleas in the springtime in Georgia and the butterflies floating around and bullfrogs and turtles. And I said, wow, what a great world.

The beauties of nature, music, music really spoke to me, classical music, music, and then romantic love, those three things. And when I experienced those things, I realized, well, I had read the statement that's often attributed to G.K. Chesterton. He said, the worst moment for an atheist is when he feels a profound sense of gratitude and has no one to thank. And I was grateful for these three things. And yet I had, I didn't really believe in God.

I had no one to thank. And I realized that kind of scowling, judgmental, I'm going to get you, God, that I had grown up with. You know, every other sermon was about hellfire in that church. And the God who created the monarch butterfly, the God who created the porcupine, the God who gave us romantic love, the God who gave us beautiful music could not be that scowling judge in the sky. I needed to scrub up my image of God.

How do you do that? Well, it's really easy. You just get to know Jesus. Because as Jesus said to his disciple named Philip, he said, he said, if you've seen me, you've seen the Father. If you want to know what God is like, watch, watch.

And he gave us three years and a lot of stories and actions. So I got to know Jesus, and Jesus helped me correct and realize what the grace is. Grace isn't about how much better I am than other people. It's how much merciful and forgiving God is than humans could possibly be. We talk about marriage and family all the time. What you're describing, that grace, that's what I want our home.

I want the atmosphere of our home to be not one of rules and regulations, not that we don't have those, but it's one of, I'm going to see all the bad, all the negative, all the ugly in you, and I'm still going to love you by God's power. And there's something that's compelling, just like everyone ran to Jesus. They wanted to be with him. The sinner, the prostitute, the tax collector, the outcast, they all wanted to be around him. And I think that's what grace is. Like when you experience it, you want to be around that person or that home or that marriage, that person that will see, when they see the ugliness in you, they'll say like, oh, I get that. I've been there and I'm going to love you through it.

Yeah. And in one of his prayers in John 17, Jesus said, I was thinking the other day, reminiscing about the time before the world began. He's got a long memory, you know. Imagine what it was like for Jesus to come to earth.

And yet you're absolutely right. It's the people who are least like him and least like the people he wanted them to be who are attracted to him. They knew he's got something I need.

Isn't that incredible to think about? Neediness is a good thing in God's economy. We have a tendency to push needy people away.

At least I do. Like if someone in your life constantly wants to borrow your stuff or ask for your time, your money, we have a tendency to recoil at constant neediness or, you know, like overly needy people, but God is not like us. And Jesus is the proof of that. Jesus constantly welcomed needy people because needy people are humble people. And as 1 Peter 5-5 says, along with several other places in scripture, God always gives grace to the humble.

I'm Shelby Abbott. You've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Phillip Yancey on Family Life Today. What's so amazing about grace?

Well, we've only scratched the surface and Phillip Yancey talks about that in his book of the same title, What's So Amazing About Grace. You can get your copy right now by going online to, or you can find it in the show notes, or just give us a call at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800-F as in family, L as in, you guessed it, life, and then the word today. You know, we are in the last week of the month of May, and this is a special month for us here at Family Life. We are a donor supported ministry and we rely on situations just like the one that we're in right now to keep producing valuable programming. Right now, every gift that you contribute to the ministry of Family Life will be doubled dollar for dollar. And get this, our matching cap now is up to $550,000.

So what does that mean? That means that when you partner with us monthly and decide to give, for example, $100, it actually becomes $200 a month. Your support can make an incredible difference, and this is the last week to have it matched dollar for dollar. So, being a monthly donor to Family Life is a partnership, and that partnership will help you be on mission with us all year long. So, for the most up-to-date information on how far your donation will go when you give, you can check us out at or look for our link in the show notes. Now, it was an incredible day with Philip Yancey, and I'm excited because he is back again tomorrow with David Ann Wilson to share some transformative stories about God's forgiveness, and of course, Jesus' embodiment of grace. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of David Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor-supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-27 06:56:49 / 2024-05-27 07:09:05 / 12

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime