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When You Can’t Forgive Them: Philip Yancey

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
May 28, 2024 5:15 am

When You Can’t Forgive Them: Philip Yancey

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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May 28, 2024 5:15 am

Constantly finding reasons not to forgive that one person (you know the one)? Giving kindness, even when it feels tough, isn't easy. Philip Yancey shows us how grace changes lives--and maybe even yours.

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Okay, before we get started today, I've got a question for you, not you Ann, our listener. Where are you listening from? And you know that we're from Detroit, Motor City, Shelby's in the Philly area, and our Family Life Today headquarters are in Orlando. So we're coming to you guys from all over the country. But what about you?

We would love to know if you are in one of those areas or where else you consider home. Text FLT plus where you're listening from to 80542 to let us know. So again, you're going to text FLT plus where you're listening from to 80542. Basically the most challenging thing Jesus said, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. What are you talking about? There are enemies. You don't pray. You don't love your enemies.

Why would you do that? And Jesus said, well, very clearly, that's the only way people will know what the Father's like. 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 Anne Wilson. You can find us at This is Family Life Today.

So we're talking about a subject I just hate talking about. A little thing called grace. Getting to talk to Phillip Yancey yesterday. I'm still wiping tears from my eyes because when he talks about grace, when the Bible talks about grace and when Jesus demonstrates grace, it's so heavenly. It's so otherworldly.

It's so compelling. Phillip Yancey is back with us today. You know, yesterday, Phillip, when you were right toward the end of our program, you're talking about Jesus as the picture of grace. And I want you to continue that because I just know this morning, before I left the house, I was in the New Testament and I'm reading, again, just taking another look at Jesus.

How many times have I done this? Thousands of times in my 30 plus years, almost 40 years being a Christian. And almost every time I see something I hadn't seen and it's grace. It's always a beautiful image of the heart of God. You said yesterday, Phillip, if you've seen me, you've seen the Father. And so Jesus is revealing another aspect of the Father, which is grace. And so we're talking today about a book you wrote 25 years ago and it's been revised.

What's so amazing about grace? So pick up from where you were because you were talking about Jesus and looking at Jesus and maybe even Henry Nouwen's quote. That's right.

Sure. It was actually a conversation I had with Henry Nouwen. I spent a day with him one time up at his place in Canada where he was spending his life really dealing with people who were deeply mentally disabled.

Tell our audience, who is that? He's a priest who is also a psychotherapist, a PhD. He taught at Yale. He taught at Harvard. And then finally he decided, I've had enough of these intellectuals.

I'm going to go to some people who really have needs. And he went to this place and took care of a young man named Adam who had an IQ of maybe 20, 25, and probably didn't even know Henry's name. And he spent the last, I don't know, I think 15 years of his life caring for Adam. But we were talking about that story that exemplifies Jesus, where in John 4, he visits a woman in a Samaritan village.

The Samaritans were the heretics to the Jews. So his disciples, why don't you go there? He said, oh, God's got something for me there.

I like Philip's contrary voice. So he went and saw a woman who was picking up water from a well in the middle of the afternoon. That's not the time in a desert when you go out to get water.

You go out in the cool of the morning. Why was she there in the afternoon? Well, we're not really told, but it could be because she was kind of the object of town gossip.

She had had five husbands and even now she was living with a man who wasn't her husband. And they got into a conversation about water. And Jesus said, well, I think you're drinking the wrong water.

You need some water that doesn't run dry. And Henry told me a story back in the days when the AIDS epidemic was just starting. It was almost called, well, it was actually called the gay men's syndrome because almost all the cases were in San Francisco among gay men coming out of the gay baths back then. And the church was not really treating gay people and people with AIDS very well in those days. There was a lot of fear and concern, and we were kind of getting away from them as far as possible.

And Henry thought, well, that's not right. So he went to see them. There was a clinic there and he said, he described to me the condition they were in, sores all over their body, inside their mouths. And there was no cure at all.

They were almost 100% dying. And he said he would just go from bedside to bedside and say, hello, I'm a clergy. And what we do is listen to people's stories.

Would you like to tell your story? And if you don't, then I'll just go to the next bed. And he said, some people were like, clergy, get out of here. I don't want to have anything to do with the church the way they treated me. Fine, I'll go to the next bed. And I will pray for you, though. And then he said, but other people did tell me their stories.

He said, Philip, you couldn't believe these stories. When I went there, I thought, what about these immoral people? What about these loose living people? When I came back, I thought, what about these thirsty people?

They're thirsty for love and they're not finding it. Where can they find it? And we talked about how similar that was to the passage in John 4. This woman, she hadn't found it either.

She was still looking. And Jesus is the only place in the Cospels where he voluntarily identified himself who he was to somebody who didn't know. He said, do you know who I am?

I'm the Messiah. And it's a woman. It's a woman. A heretic woman. Actually, if you look back on it, she was probably his first missionary, his first foreign missionary. And he had a good choice because she went back in and said he converted the entire town to this woman because they could see the changes in her. She used to be someone that you gossip about and tell your children, I'll never be like her. And now suddenly you want what she's got because it transformed her.

And I think that's a beautiful model of what we should be look like to the rest of the world. You got to tell this story. And I told you, I know you told it last time you were here. When you were on that Bible study, that prayer group in college, and you realize who you are, that's a great story. I'd love our audience to hear that again because I'm guessing some have never heard it. I know it's in your memoir where the light fell. Just mention that because it's such a beautiful story of you realizing who you were and what you needed.

Right. I mentioned that I went to this little church that had the truth. There are about a hundred of us and we were superior to everybody. I was in that church too.

We were also racist and all these other things. And then I realized that church was wrong about race, about a lot of things they taught me. So I swung the other way as far as I could go and started judging them, these ignorant fundamentalists.

I don't want anything to do with them. And I ended up in a Bible college campus and that same judgmental attitude followed me there. We had to have a Christian service and the Christian service I chose was to go to a university campus and supposedly witness. And instead I would usually sit in the student center and watch basketball and the guys with me would witness. And I come back and we write these stories about all the people we talked to.

Mine were very loosely told, shall we say. And we had to have a prayer meeting each week and we did, and I never prayed. So therefore of us, the three guys would take turns praying and then they would pause about 10 seconds. I never prayed.

And then they would say, thanks guys, see you next week. And then one time I just, without thinking about it at all, I just started praying. I said, God, everything got very tense. I said, as you know, I don't care if all 10,000 people at that university go to hell. Well, you could cut that with a knife at a Bible college prayer meeting.

In fact, I don't even care if I go to hell. And I had a vision. It was a life changing vision.

The only one like that, anything close to that I've had. We had just been studying the good Samaritan. I started talking about the parable of the good Samaritan. I know we're supposed to be like the good Samaritan, reaching down to this wretch in a ditch here and helping them. And then suddenly as I was talking, that vision changed and I saw the person in the ditch was me.

Here I thought I was smarter, more sophisticated than these fundamentalist types. And I realized I was the neediest one of all. And every time Jesus, because the good Samaritan took on the face of Jesus, every time the good Samaritan reached out to help me, I'd spit in his face.

Three times that happened, three times. And then I didn't know what to do, so I just got up and left the room. And that changed my life. Here I've made my career as a Christian writer. And it all goes back to that moment. It was a moment of grace where I realized I was the needy one.

And unless you come to some point of realizing that, and a lot of people don't, they say, I can get along fine without you God. They're the losers. They're the losers. And I realized that for the first time.

Yeah. I mean, hearing you say that again, it's such a beautiful story because we resist being the one in the ditch. We don't want to be that one. We want to be anything but that. And grace doesn't work until you admit that. Is that true?

Until you're able to say, I need it? Well, in some way, yeah. I mean, look at the rich young ruler, the story there. And Jesus would always find, what is that one need?

And he pretty well exposed him. His need was a need to be rich. And I'd rather be rich than to be loved by God. That was the choice.

Because Jesus says, here, do these things. I've already done all those. Oh, okay. Then give away all your money. Yeah. Talk to you later.

I'm out of here. And God will often do this. It's not like God has to devastate us, but until we understand it's not about how much better we are than other people or how much like God we are, even it's how open we are to receiving God's free gift. Jesus has already done the work. You know, that's the point of the gospel. Jesus has done it.

So you don't have to do it. You just have to follow Jesus in the way that he set out. When you say that Jesus saw grace everywhere he went, and then he communicated that through his parables, what do you mean by that? He saw it everywhere he went.

Part of it, I think, was the common grace that spoke to me, too. Because when Jesus is telling his stories, what does he use? He uses wildflowers. Somebody says something about King Solomon. Now there was a king man. He had 800 wives. And Jesus says, you know what? See that lily over there?

That's more beautiful than Solomon ever was. And so there's kind of that common grace. And then even in people who are the outcasts, literally outcasts, those with leprosy, it's a disease I know a lot about because I wrote three books with Dr. Paul Brand, who was a leprosy specialist in India. And those are the most abused people on the entire planet. There is nobody lower than somebody of the untouchable, what used to be called untouchable caste, now Dalits in India, who has leprosy. They're kicked out of their homes. They're kicked out of their villages still.

And many of them live in a pile of rocks somewhere and some might all take a slop bucket of food over every few days. And because people are so afraid of leprosy, which is it's not that contagious, it's not that dangerous, but the fear persists. And it was really strong in Jesus' day and Jesus would touch a person with leprosy. Jesus dispensed grace to the outcasts. Probably the most challenging thing he said for us as Americans is, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

I mentioned that one time. I was writing a book on prayer and I stood up in the pulpit and I said, I've never done that. I've never prayed for Russia. What would happen if every church in the United States adopted a terrorist and these people who are trying to blow us up in Iraq and Afghanistan and just prayed for them? Well, there was a guy, I didn't know that, he drove up from Colorado Springs who was a chaplain and the rank of colonel and that got to him. And so he started a website called, And you could go, you still can, you can go in that site and you can see a little biography and a picture of a terrorist and all the terrible things he's done and you have to agree to pray for them on a regular basis. Well, his commanding officer, the general who's got ahold of this, called him and, what the, what are you doing here? I'm trying to teach these guys to kill and you're trying to teach them to love and pray?

Actually, I think that was the disciples' response too when Jesus said that, what are you talking about? They're our enemies. You don't pray. You don't love your enemies.

Why would you do that? And Jesus said, well, very clearly, that's the only way people will know what the father's like because God causes the rain to fall and the sun to shine on the evil and the good alike. And that's the kind of God you have. And unless you can kind of show that to the rest of the world by doing something as crazy as loving your enemies, they'll miss that message of grace.

Oh, I'm just telling you, that is so conflicting. I'm just thinking like the person that you just struggle with. Or it could be a family member.

It could be your spouse. I mean, that is like, love them, pray for them, do good to those who hurt you. That is so otherworldly. Well, Phil, talk about forgiveness. When you talk about loving your enemies or loving your family, but you've got hurt and wounds and bitterness that maybe they have a history or a story or it may have been decades. God calls us to forgive just as we've been forgiven. That's grace.

You're absolutely right. And I have maybe five chapters in this book, What's Amazing About Grace, about forgiveness. And the publisher took those and some other material into another book called The Scandal of Forgiveness because it is scandalous. And it's also poisonous. The funny lady, Anne Lamott, says not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. I thought that was good the first time I heard it. I remember that.

We're the ones who suffer. And I told you the story last time I was here of my own family, just three people, a mother and two sons. Father had died when I was a baby. And my mother and older brother didn't speak to each other for 52 years. Finally, just before she died, I got them on a three-way phone conversation. They never saw each other for 52 years. And each one of them, I look at them and it's like a little version of my mother was living inside him saying, don't you dare, don't you dare.

And the same thing, a version of him is living inside of her. And they're just kind of, they're fighting themselves because no one's willing to say, I'm sorry. I was wrong. Or I didn't feel I was wrong, but I regret what happened. Can you forgive me?

And it can be that simple. Can you forgive me? And yet so many people go through life with those unforgiven things, just eating away. And so I don't like rat poison. Yeah, I know, you know, I had to go on a journey with my own dad and you write in your book the term you coined, ungrace. I was ungraceful.

He didn't deserve it. I couldn't see for decades. This is poisoning me. This is locking me up.

I sorta had this image. I'm locking him up. You know, he can't have a relationship with me because he was sort of repentant and wanting to step back into my life. This is college years and I'm playing college football and he's in Miami as an airline pilot. And next thing I know he's showing up at ball games because he's reading about me down in the Miami papers. And you know, my first response, instead of being a grateful son, like, thank you for, I'm like, what are you doing here?

He's never showed up anywhere in my life. Now that I'm somebody and I had to go on this journey and it didn't take a couple of days or weeks. It took years, but one of the best decisions I ever made in my life was to set a prisoner free. And I was the prisoner through forgiveness, you know, and it's what's so amazing about grace and you can read it in a book or talk about it, but when you experience it, it's a whole nother deal.

It is. And when I go around and talk about forgiveness, inevitably somebody says, well, what about if the person doesn't repent or, you know, ask forgiveness? And we have a beautiful example of that in Jesus. You know, he's being crucified, nailed to the cross. And interesting what he prays. He says, he doesn't say, I forgive you. He says, father, forgive them because they don't know what they're doing.

Paul was the same way when he faced people who really upset him, he would say, okay, they deserve revenge, but vengeance is mine, says God, I'll give it to God. That's a good way to implement that, I think. It's practical when you just feel like I can't say that, but I'm going to give it to you, God. Yeah. What about you? I mean, you talked about your brother's struggle with your mom. How did you forgive your mom? I got to know her background.

You know, a lot of forgiveness is just putting yourself in their place. And yeah, my mother did a lot of things wrong, but she got some bad cards in life. She had an unloving family, very strict, very harsh, a lot of poverty. We heard these stories about people lived through the depression. She lived through the depression and it was tough. And then finally this person came along kind of a knight in shining armor. He was in the Navy in World War II and he was in the Philadelphia shipyards and went home and had lunch with a family, church people invited sailors home for lunch and she fell in love. And he really was the man of her dreams and he wanted to be a missionary like she did. And they're ready to go to the mission field and they have two children.

I'm one of them. And then boom, one day he's completely paralyzed. And then he spends the next two and a half months living in an iron lung, unable to move, had polio.

And then friends got together and said, well, that's no future. So let's pray that he would be healed. Well, he wasn't healed.

And they took him out of the iron lung and he died. So imagine she placed everything on him. She had never written a check. She'd never driven a car. She didn't know how to live. And suddenly he's gone. And she's left with two kids, two brats.

I'm one of them, one and three years old. She made a lot of mistakes, but I think they were mistakes. I mean, she did a lot of things right as well. And I learned to see that over the years. And I had to go back to some people I had written about in the church I grew up in. You know, I told you some stories. Well, I had to go to that pastor and say, do you still believe all that?

Why did you preach so much on hell? And then say, but I'm no, I just wish you had also shown me the other side, but I want to, if I've offended you in something I've said, can we talk about that? I want to apologize for it. So I went to four or five people.

Whoa, this is a big deal. I call it the amends tour. Because it's easy for me to write something that can really damage somebody's reputation. Usually I didn't use their names, but they knew who I was talking about and I did go through that. How did they respond? In every case but one, they would say, yeah, I've matured a lot over the years. I've softened. I wouldn't do it like that again.

My beliefs haven't changed, but my attitudes is the way I present them have changed. One person was just still really angry. I'm sorry. I apologize.

And then he's no longer living, but he had to live with that. That's a good action step. Is there any one that we've offended? Jesus said, if you go to the temple and there's someone you haven't forgiven, leave your offering down and run back and get that person.

Yeah. I love the way Philippiancy is leading by example as a person who's admitting that they didn't always get it right. And he's saying, you know, we all need grace. So let's not pretend that we don't need grace by never apologizing to other people and admitting when we're wrong.

It takes a lot of character. And I'm really glad he was genuine with us today about that. I'm Shelby Abbott and you've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Philippiancy on Family Life Today. Philipp has written a book called What's So Amazing About Grace. And if you wanted to read a little bit more about Philipp's profound insight and exploration of the topic of grace, you could get a copy of his book, What's So Amazing About Grace right now by going online to or you could find it in the show notes or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329.

Again, that number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. You know, we're winding down here in the month of May, only a few days left in this month. And May is always an important month for us here at Family Life because as a donor supported ministry, we rely on situations like this month 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 has reached $550,000.

So every gift given up to $550,000 is going to be doubled. So your support can really make a huge and incredible difference this month. Being a monthly donor to family life is really a partnership that will help you be on mission with us all year long. So I'd love for you to head over to

Click on the donate now button at the top of the page, and it'll walk you through how to go about becoming a family life monthly partner. Or you can just check out the show notes at How do we navigate cancel culture? How do we model grace and engage with differing viewpoints in our culture today? Well, Phillip Yancey is back with David Ann Wilson to talk about just that 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 / 2024-05-28 08:13:01 / 2024-05-28 08:22:59 / 10

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