Grace Extends Forgiveness to Others
About the Guest
Who in your life needs your forgiveness? Pastor and author Max Lucado tells the powerful story of Victoria Ruvolo, a woman who illustrated the love and forgiveness of God one November after teens intentionally threw an object at her vehicle, breaking the windshield and shattering her face. Nine months later, as she stood in court, Victoria was able to exhibit grace to her offenders. Max explains why vengeance should always be the Lord's and why you should consider how much you've been forgiven when it's your turn to forgive.
Who in your life needs your forgiveness?
Grace Extends Forgiveness to Others
Bob: You’re familiar with the Golden Rule; right? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Max Lucado says, “It’s only because of what Jesus has already done for us that we can do any good to others.”
Max: The night before His crucifixion, He took the dirtiest part of their lives in His hands; and He washed their feet. Then, His instruction to them was, “Now, you go and do likewise.” So, we let God forgive us. Then, He says, “Now, just as I have forgiven you—just as I have washed your feet—turn to your spouse, to your children, to your co-worker and forgive them—wash their feet, as well.” This is why I call grace, “God’s best idea.”
Take God out of the picture and say, “Now, go forgive your neighbor.” “I’m not going to forgive that jerk! Look at what he did to me! There’s no reason. I’m not going to—I may share the same street with him, but I’m not going to like it.” You know, that’s just kind of that attitude. But put God back in the picture—and help a person see that God became a human being, and lived on the earth and, then, died a sinner’s death because we, as sinners, need a Savior. Well, that changes everything. You know what that gives me? That gives me a wellspring, from which I can drink—a wellspring of grace.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 23rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. If you have been a recipient of God’s grace, are you also a dispenser of God’s grace? We’ll talk about that today with Max Lucado. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Whenever I think about the subject of grace, first thing that comes to mind, for me, is always frozen turkeys. That’s just the first thing that pops into my head.
Dennis: You know, me, too.
Dennis: I was thinking that same thing.
Bob: Actually, it hasn’t been the case always—just since I read Max Lucado’s latest book. It’s got a trigger in it. [Laughter]
Dennis: Max, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Max: Thank you. It’s a great privilege to be with you.
Dennis: Max is, of course, a best-seller author, a pastor in San Antonio, enjoys all that great Mexican food that Bob—
Max: It’s the best.
Dennis: —he had to give it up to—
Bob: Still cheering for the Spurs; aren’t you?
Bob: Yes, give it up right here—
Max: We’re hanging in—they’re—
Bob: —a little fist bump on me.
Dennis: Max has never heard this story. You have, Bob. You and I spoke somewhere in San Antonio—at some big gathering. I spoke first because, I think, if they had put you first, they would have left. [Laughter]
Max: I don’t think so. I don’t think so.
Dennis: Well, just let me finish the story. I had just finished a book called The Tribute. It was about honoring your parents. When you write a book that is about something that—
Bob: —that nobody wants to do?
Dennis: —that nobody wants to do—and then Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for putting their hand over their wallet and saying, “Dedicated to God, but”—
Dennis: —“I can’t help my parents,” it’s a big-time heart issue. Well, I spoke about honoring your parents—I forget, I’m sorry, Max. It was riveting—what you said—but I can’t remember. This was like maybe 20—
Bob: I remember you going and speaking. I was here because I remember you going there for it.
Dennis: So, it was within the last 20 years.
Dennis: There was an autograph session afterwards, Max. Bob, now, is remembering where I’m going with this. They said where I was going to be and where you were going to be. The line for your books—we were upstairs, on kind of a breezeway area. Your line went all the way down, two stories—out, into the parking lot. Max, I had five people. [Laughter] This is a true story.
Bob: He was hearing crickets.
Dennis: Oh my goodness! I go, “You know? Max was not that good!” [Laughter] “I was not that bad!” It was really good for my—
Max: I’ve got a lot of relatives. I’ve got a lot of relatives.
Max: They all came out.
Dennis: Yes, well, you’ve got over 80 million relatives who bought your books. You’re a popular author of a number of books. The latest is called Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine.
Back to the frozen turkey—what does a frozen turkey have to do with grace?
Max: Well, I came across this story. It’s a riveting story of a lady named Victoria Ruvolo, who just was innocently driving home after work one day in Long Island—one November evening. She never saw the Nissan coming—never noticed the car coming, in her direction, in the other lane. She sure never saw that teenager, leaning out of the window with a frozen turkey—of all things—with the absolute intent of throwing it into the windshield of a car, in the oncoming traffic.
Bob: This was just a prank that he was—
Max: Just a prank; just a prank.
Dennis: A 20- to 25-pound—
Max: Yes. Yes, she was that car. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He leaned out and threw it. The turkey crashed through her windshield— crashed into her steering wheel. Steering wheel hit her face. Her jaw crashed like china on concrete. I mean, it just—her whole face shattered. The end result—she ended up in ICU, had to have her eyes reaffixed with synthetic film, had to have her jaw completely rewired, spent—I can’t remember—several months, as you can imagine, in some form of rehab.
Well, the reason I include the story in the book, though, is because that kid—he became the poster child for, “What’s wrong with the world.”
Max: They caught him. They scheduled his sentencing—his court date. The court was full of people who were just angry. They were ready to take it out, not just on him, but the whole generation; you know? Well, imagine the surprise when the judge just sentenced him to a few months of parole and some public service. They just erupted in anger. What they didn’t know is that the reduced sentence was the idea of Victoria Ruvolo, who is a follower of Christ. She, in the courtroom, walked over to the boy and said, “I want you to start your life over.” She didn’t want to hold it over him. She forgave him—just publicly—forgave him.
I remember reading that story thinking, “How hard that must have been.” How do you forgive somebody? You know, we haven’t been hit by a turkey; but some of us have been raised by one, or married one, or worked for one. Yet, how do you find it within you to forgive somebody like that and give them a second chance? What does it mean for you?
Bob: That kind of forgiveness is connected to the subject of your book, which is all about grace, because, in order to be able to forgive, we have to first receive—
Bob: —we can’t pass on what we haven’t received first; can we?
Max: I think that’s a fundamental principle. That is—you can’t give a grace you’ve never received. So, when a person finds it difficult to forgive, what do they do? Well, I think they consider how much they have been forgiven. This is just a basic, fundamental truth. You know?
The chapter—if I remember correctly, in the book—that’s where we talk about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples—how, the night before His crucifixion, He took the dirtiest part of their lives in His hands; and He washed their feet. Then, His instruction to them was, “Now, you go and do likewise.” So, we let God forgive us. Then, He says, “Now, just as I have forgiven you—just as I have washed your feet—turn to your co-worker, to your spouse, to your children—go and forgive them—wash their feet, as well.”
Dennis: I want our listeners, right now, to think about a person who has dirty feet. I’m talking about someone that is difficult to love, someone that you are tempted to resent, someone, over your lifetime, who, perhaps, has really wounded you or hurt you. Now, you’ve got that person in mind? Everybody has got that person—had somebody who has done you wrong and has hurt you profoundly.
Max, you are saying that the same forgiveness we’ve received from the Savior—we are to, in turn, give to that other person. The One who stepped out of eternity—and gave up the right to punish us by dying on a cross for our sins, Who rose again from the grave on the third day—calls us to do the same forgiving that He first sought to do, in our lives, through that work on the cross. That’s what you’re saying; right?
Max: That’s exactly right. Just as God, in Christ, has forgiven you—so you must forgive others. That’s the challenge of Scripture, right there. Just as God, through Christ, has forgiven us—so we, then, in turn, forgive others.
Bob: Okay, but here’s the challenge with that; and you know this. There’s a vulnerability that comes with forgiving another person. I mean, if somebody has hurt us and we release them from any consequence, then, they might just go, “Well, that was easy. I can do that again.” You understand why people want to hang on to bitterness as a protective—
Max: I do.
Max: And because we’re afraid that, in forgiving them, we are, inadvertently, endorsing them—
Dennis: That’s a good point.
Max: —or saying what they did either did not hurt or was not bad. That’s not what we’re saying, at all. What it seems, to me, is that the Bible is so serious about forgiving others for two reasons.
Number one, resentment kills us. It just eats us up. Resentment chews us up from the inside out. It is an addiction. People find it hard to forgive because the emotion of hatred is emotion that fuels an adrenaline rush within us. We find ourselves enjoying that fury—that hatred, that prejudice, that bigotry. It begins to define us. Then, it consumes us.
Then, there is a second reason that I think the Bible calls us to forgive. That is because we do not know how to distribute vengeance. We don’t know. We either give more than that person deserves or less than that person deserves. Here is what the Bible says. God says, “Vengeance is Mine. I will repay.” I think that’s a profound passage. It tells us that vengeance is not yours, and it’s not Max’s. The vengeance is God’s. Then, look what it says: “I will repay.” “I will repay.” That person who molested you—they’ll get it. That person who abandoned you—they’re going to pay for it.
See, God is not endorsing what they did. He’s saying, “You leave it up to Me. I will make sure they receive the right amount of consequences for their misbehavior. Nobody is going to get out of this. We receive consequences now, and we will receive consequences on the Day of Judgment. But God is saying He is a just God. So, you can forget the fact that that person is going to slip off into the Bahamas and sip Mai Tais for the rest of their life; and go unpunished. They’ll get punished. They’ll get exactly the appropriate amount of punishment.
Bob: So, does that mean—as somebody might think, as they are listening—that, “I’m in trouble when I head into eternity because vengeance belongs to God, and I’m going to get paid for what I did?”
Max: Well, if you are outside of Christ, it does. If you are outside of Christ, God is a just God. He must punish sin, or He is not a just God. He doesn’t just pretend that we’ve never sinned. He has to punish sin—so, He punishes the sin of the sinner.
Now, if I give my heart to Christ, Christ took my punishment for me. So, my sin has already been punished. If you are a listener, and you know that what you’ve done is wrong, and you’ve given your heart to Christ, you can celebrate the grace of God because Jesus received that vengeance or that punishment for you. He justified you. He took your place so that you don’t have to. But listen—if you are outside of Christ, and you’re living life without God, and you’re just trying to work it out on your own—
Dennis: That’s a frightening place to be.
Max: —you need to be afraid. You need to be afraid because you will receive the just retribution for your sin.
Dennis: That person needs to come to faith in Christ before the sun goes down.
Dennis: I mean, immediately—
Dennis: —because the wrath of God is a serious matter.
I’m just curious, Max; and you may choose not to answer this. What about you? Has there ever been a person in your life that put this principle of grace—forgiving one another, just as God, in Christ, has forgiven you—has there ever been a person who put that to the test in your life?
Max: Yes, there has.
Dennis: Could you share that story with us?
Max: I can. My mother and I did not get along. My mother and I did not—my father and I were just alike—but my mother and I had two different philosophies of life. Boy, did we butt heads. I look back and I still think, “Why did she punish me for doing that? Why didn’t she encourage me more?” I’ve had to work it through.
She—her philosophy of life was to just kind of leave everybody else alone. You don’t bother anybody. Nobody bothers you and just leave everybody else alone. Here’s what I learned about my mother, though. I became a Christian when I was 20 years of age. I began realizing, “I’m supposed to forgive my mom, even though she and I have never gotten along.”
Dennis: Was there a moment where you offered that forgiveness to her; or was it just a transaction between you and God, where you said, “Okay, God, I’ll give up the right to punish her.”
Max: Exactly. I gave up the right to be angry. I never went to my mom and said, “Mom, you were not a good mom. I’m going to forgive you for not being a good mom,” for two reasons.
Number one, she was a good mom, in the sense, that she provided for me and she loved me—
Max: —and she did care for me.
Max: So, I never felt like I needed to do that. What helped me, though—and your book, The Tribute, was part of this, Dennis. I don’t think I’ve ever told you that—honoring your parents and recognizing them.
What helped me was understanding her childhood. She grew up in a cotton field that her dad leased. I mean—dirt farmers. He didn’t own it. He’d lease the dirt to raise the cotton. Then, he died when she was ten. Her mother remarried a man who didn’t really love her. It’s just more than I ought to go into right now; but it was a tough, tough upbringing—poor, difficult, challenging, right in the middle of the Depression.
When I began to understand her upbringing, I said, “Well, no wonder! No wonder she is so”—I don’t know—“resistant and kind of hard toward people.” She’s been hurt! She grew up in a hard, hard situation. Understanding what she went through, I thought, “If I’d grown up in that, I wouldn’t have been the quality of woman that she is.” That really helped me.
I guess, I say that to say this, “Sometimes, we have to understand where a person has come from.” That helps us on the path of forgiveness.
Bob: After we’re done here today, if you’d like to get your copy of The Tribute autographed, Dennis is going to have a little table—and you can line up—
Dennis: It’ll mean that six stood in line. [Laughter] We’re laughing about it; but in the book—I talk about how we give gifts to our parents, all the time—I talk about three gifts to give your parents. You just outlined them.
Number one: the gift of understanding—understanding where they came from, what makes up their lives, who they are, all that came about—maybe some evil in their lives that damaged them. Secondly, the gift of compassion—Christ called us to be compassionate, to be a fellow-feeler—to bear their burdens with them. Then, third, that moves us, I think, to what you did, which is the gift of forgiveness.
Again, what makes that forgiveness possible—and you’ve made a point of this in your book—is that you’ve been forgiven—forgiving one another, just as God, in Christ, has forgiven you. Forgiveness is not optional—
Max: That’s right.
Dennis: —in the Christian life. It’s a part of the fiber of the Christian life, whether you’re in a relationship in marriage, a family relationship—maybe an extended family relationship—forgiveness has got to be practiced.
Max: It’s a command; isn’t it? The same God who said, “Love your neighbor,” the same God who said, “Love your parents,” is the God who says, “Forgive your enemies.” It’s not an option.
Bob: I appreciate the fact that, in the book, as you talk about forgiveness, you also talk about the need for confession. There’s a grace there, too. In fact, you tell a story about a person who had headaches.
Max: Yes. Yes. Okay, I might have to test myself on the memory of his name. I think, it’s Lee Foo Yon.
Max: Is that right? I just found this story in a magazine. I thought it was just the most unbelievable story. It’s a fellow who lived with a knife blade in his head. He’s from China. In an attack—he was assaulted. Somehow—I just find this hard to believe—but somehow, a knife blade went up through his jaw, into his head, and stayed there for—is it several years?—
Max: Undetected. He—of course, he had these migraines. He had headaches. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Somehow, a knife blade had gotten broken off inside his head. That’s just one of those bizarre stories. Actually, I got online; and I realized there are a lot of stories like that of people who have swallowed pennies and have foreign objects in their bodies. The point is we are not made to live with those objects in our bodies. We’re not.
The same is true with our soul. We are not made to live with anger. We’re not made to live with guilt. The longer we live with those emotions inside us, the more festered and problematic our lives are going to be.
Bob: So, tie all of this—both forgiveness and confession—tie it back to the big theme of grace, which is the theme of your book.
Max: It makes it possible. This is why I call grace, “God’s best idea.” Take God out of the picture, like many people do. Take God out of the picture and say, “Now, go and forgive your neighbor.” “I’m not going to go forgive that jerk! Look what he did to me! There’s no reason. I may share the same street with him, but I’m not going to like him.” You know, it’s just kind of that attitude; but put God back in the picture. Help a person see that God became a human being, and lived on the earth, and, then, died a sinner’s death because we, as sinners, need a Savior. Well, that changes everything.
You know what that gives me? That gives me a wellspring from which I can drink—a wellspring of grace. Without Jesus, without God, I don’t have that wellspring. I have to conjure up forgiveness inside of me, and there’s not much there; but if I have a wellspring and I can go and say, “Lord, thank You that You have forgiven me”—and by the way, the more we know God, the more we understand how much He forgives us. Then, I have a soft heart. I have a soft heart because I’ve been forgiven!
I’ve always thought it was interesting that Jesus said the reason that Moses permitted divorce is because, “Your hearts are hard.” We get these hard hearts. They’re so hard we can’t live with each other—the hardness of the heart. Grace softens the heart. Where grace softens the heart, there’s reconciliation, forgiveness, and a future—a future is possible.
So, back to the beginning there, Bob, we forgive because we’ve been forgiven—nothing more.
Dennis: And just as you were talking, I was kind of reflecting back upon some of the culture battles that are taking place in our country right now, where Christians can be seen—pointing their fingers, holding placards, pointing bony fingers, yelling, and screaming at certain groups of people because they’ve chosen a different lifestyle. I keep going back to John, Chapter 1, where it says, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory full”—of what?
Max: Grace and truth.
Dennis: —“grace and truth.” I’m really pretty good at the truth side of things, I’ve determined. I naturally have a justice-bent—to gravitate to the truth. It’s that grace-side of Jesus that troubles me the most, Max, because He calls me to get off my high horse and to realize, “I’m broken, I need a Savior, I need Him to love other people through me.”
I would say, in the last decade of my life, this has been the area of greatest growth in me. Talk about the heart transplant, that we talked about earlier, of seeing the life of Christ being produced within you—thinking of how you can love people rather than judge them.
Right now, I turn back to the listener and I say, “You’ve got that person, still in mind, that you have a hard time loving—maybe that you resent, maybe even hate. Maybe, it’s time.” I’m not kidding. Maybe, it’s time you give it up because Christ gave it up for you—and you forgive them.
Bob: On our website, at FamilyLifeToday.com—we’ve got articles, resources—talking about forgiveness, anger, bitterness. We want to provide some coaching, some biblical- thinking on this subject. If you find yourself in a spot where it is hard to let go, we’d encourage you to get a copy of Max Lucado’s book, Grace, as well. We’ve got that in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of the book from us, online. The book is called Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine by Max Lucado. Our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also order a copy of the book when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
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We hope you can be back with us again tomorrow. Max Lucado will be here. We’ll continue talking about God’s grace.
I want to thank our engineer—Keith Lynch—and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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