The Journey of Forgiveness
What is forgiveness? Join us on the journey of biblical forgiveness with Leslie Leyland Fields, Voddie Baucham, and Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.
About the Guest
- Voddie Baucham explains in order to be successful in marriage, a couple must be able to forgive each other often. But the only way to do that is to have a solid grasp of God's great forgiveness of us through Christ. (26 min. podcast) https://www.familylife.com/podcast/familylife-today/voddie-baucham-on-forgiveness/
- FamilyLife articles on forgiveness. https://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/marriage/staying-married/forgiveness/
- Leslie Leyland Fields shares about the time she packed up her kids and traveled to Florida to visit her estranged father. Leslie talks about their visit, and her childhood growing up with a mentally ill father. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/familylife-today/finding-freedom-from-hurt-and-hate/
morebooks, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—...moremore
What is forgiveness? Join us on the journey of biblical forgiveness with Leslie Leyland Fields, Voddie Baucham, and Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.
Michelle: For a Christian, forgiveness isn’t optional; but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Here’s Leslie Leyland Fields.
Leslie: Forgiven people must be forgiving people. I hope that we can start right there in our families. I have to say, “My life has been changed. Forgiving my father has changed my life.”
Michelle: We’re going to take a journey today with Leslie Leyland Fields and learn about the costly but beautiful ointment of forgiveness on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. You know—if you have kids, or grandkids, or children in your life—you’re going to recognize this next conversation. It goes something like this. They say, “Do I have to?!” You say, “Yes; it’s good for you.” They say, “But I don’t want to!” You say, “Just do it.” Does that sound familiar? Well, have you ever had those kinds of conversations with God? You, of course, would be asking the question that the kids ask of: “Do I have to?!”
Some things are good for us even though we dread the process. Sometimes, we have to do something because God said so. You know God loves the number seven. Remember, back in Matthew, Peter asked how many times he was supposed to forgive his brother or sister. He asks, “…like seven?”—which, for Peter, he thought he was being generous because that was more than twice of what the rabbis were asking you to do; but Jesus said, “No; 70 times 7”—which is basically saying, “That’s like a million times!” I don’t know about you; but for me, when someone hurts me, the first thing I want to do is not show them the fanatical love of forgiveness.
I want to introduce you to a friend of mine. I say she’s a friend because she and her family live in Alaska; they are commercial fishermen. I used to live in Alaska; I knew commercial fisherman. Since Alaska is—while it’s large, there are so few people; we have to know each other; right?!
She’s a very cool person; but Leslie Leyland Fields—she knows this forgiveness stuff. She has quite the forgiveness journey, which kind of started with a trip, where she packed up all of her children—all of her six children in Alaska—and flew all the way to Florida. In her mind, she was doing the right thing—introducing her children to the grandfather they never knew.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Leslie: Well, I packed up all six kids on spring break, and we flew down to Florida for them to meet their grandfather for the first time. I knew it was the first time, and it was probably also the last time. I hadn’t talked about my father very much; they knew nothing about him. They—you know, they weren’t particularly interested; but I knew that, for future reference, they just needed to meet him.
Bob: Your kids didn’t grow up with phone calls to Grandpa or with presents at Christmas from Grandpa—with the normal grandparent involvement?
Leslie: Not at all; not at all; no; no. They—
Bob: Why not?
Leslie: My father was not even a father to his own six children, so it would have been absurd for me to think that he would be a grandfather to my six children. He was very detached and seemed to be unable to connect with people, even his own children.
Dennis: So, to protect your kids as they flew down to see their grandpa, you didn’t actually tell them that he was their grandpa; right?
Leslie: No; I never talked about him as their grandfather because I didn’t feel that connection anyway. I always talked about him as my father. I would say, “We’re going to meet my father”; I didn’t want to say, “grandfather.”
They had another grandfather, who lived right there in Kodiak—my husband’s father. They kind of knew something about a grandfather because he was a kind man. He loved to pull the children up on his lap and do nursery rhymes with them and all the wonderful things that grandpas should do with their children—he did that. That was their image of a grandfather, and I could never—I could never, even myself, name my father, “grandfather.”
Bob: Were you thinking—when you took your kids down to meet their grandfather, who they’d never met, and you couldn’t bring yourself to call the man their grandfather—were you thinking, “This is going to be the beginning of the process I need to go through in forgiving my father”?
Leslie: You know, I hoped that it was the beginning; but at the end of that visit—I was there; we were there together for about four hours—and my father was resistant. He did not talk to me; he didn’t look at me. At the end of those four hours, I determined: “That’s it! I’m done. I am really done. I am never coming back.”
Bob: “I’ve paid $10,000—
Bob: —“to get everybody here.
Bob: “I took two days, four hours—you’re not looking at me.” You just wiped the dust and moved on.
Leslie: I did. I wiped the dust off my feet, and I went back home. I thought: “The door is closed. I’m done.”
Michelle: That’s Leslie Leyland Fields, and she tried; right? I think we can safely say that most people would say: “This forgiveness thing—I’ve tried. I’m washing my hands of it. They wouldn’t listen to me.”
But unforgiveness is like cancer, and it’s hard to spot until it’s too late. Don’t just take my word for it. Let’s hear from someone we trust to dig into God’s Word and hold nothing back. I’m talking about the man named Voddie Baucham. Voddie says it’s easy to get stuck not forgiving when we don’t remind ourselves of just how much we’ve been forgiven.
Voddie: My standard is higher than God’s standard; so, though He can forgive you, I can’t—that’s arrogant! God could send His Son to die for that sin that you committed against Him; but that’s not good enough for me.
You can be right with the Creator of the universe, who spoke the world into existence, who ought to have consumed you with fire last night because of what you thought, said, and did yesterday. The God of the universe, according to His standard, can receive you, nonetheless—and not only receive you—but crush and kill His only begotten Son for that sin that you committed. God can do that; my standard is higher—that’s the height of arrogance; it’s also hypocrisy.
Why don’t we forgive? Let me give you these, and we’ll be done. One reason we don’t forgive is because we do not comprehend the gospel. When I am constantly and consistently reminding myself of the price that was paid for my sin—when I am constantly and consistently rejoicing in and praising God for the forgiveness that is mine in Christ—I cannot harbor unforgiveness toward you; I can’t do it!
When I am constantly burdened down under the weight of the majesty of the forgiveness that I have received—when I am constantly reminded that the precious, spotless, sinless Lamb of God was crushed and killed, crucified at the will and beckoning of His own Father, and that perfect life was exchanged for mine—if you are harboring unforgiveness, I want to point you back to the gospel. If you are harboring unforgiveness, I want to point you back to Christ.
Secondly, I harbor unforgiveness because I’m wrong about the definition of forgiveness. For example, some people hold on to unforgiveness because you believe that forgiveness means that you have to forget. That’s a common cultural saying, but it’s not Bible. It says that God casts our sins into the sea of forgetfulness. See; you ain’t Him. [Laughter] Literally, what that means is that God casts off the punishment due to your sins when you understand what forgiveness means.
By the way, that’s not the beauty of forgiveness. The beauty of forgiveness is not that you can’t remember what happened. The beauty of forgiveness is that, in spite of the fact that you remember and may never forget, you give up your right to punish. That’s the beauty of forgiveness. [Applause]
The other myth that we believe is that you can only extend forgiveness to someone when they ask for it. Here’s the danger in that one. If you follow that through to its logical conclusion, then you don’t really believe that Jesus Christ has forgiven you for all sins—past, present, and then future. You believe, actually, that you will only stand in heaven if you have managed to recognize, record, and repent of every sin that you’ve ever committed; because if you don’t recognize, record, and repent of every sin that you committed, that means you’re going to stand before God with a record of sins for which you have not repented. If forgiveness is only extended when it’s asked for specifically, you can’t be saved.
If you believe that you can only forgive when people specifically ask you for forgiveness, I feel sorry for you because that makes you the judge of the universe, who must punish sin unless and until forgiveness is requested. Good luck with that.
Michelle: That’s Voddie Baucham. He always packs a punch, for sure. First off, did you hear Voddie remind us that we’re not God? He also said the beauty of forgiveness is not that you can’t remember what happened. The beauty of forgiveness is that, in spite of the fact that you remember and may never forget, you give up your right to punish—that’s the beauty for forgiveness. If you want to hear more from Voddie, go to our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Hey, we need to take a break; but when we come back, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is going to talk about forgiveness. Also, we’re going to continue following the forgiveness journey of Leslie Leyland Fields. Stay tuned.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. We’re walking that costly but beautiful journey of forgiveness this week. You know, for any how-to’s these days, you go to Google; right? I went to Google, and I typed in “How to forgive.” Now, I know I probably should have gone to the Bible; but you know, I kind of just wanted to see what Google has to say. It’s quick and easy; right?
So, let’s see: “Forgiveness isn’t about you,” “Focus on gratitude,”—that’s got to be in the Bible; right?—“Look for the lesson,” “Also, don’t live in the past; stay present,” “Send love,” “Learn to let go and be like the water”—huh? Kind of nonsense—well, maybe, not all nonsense—some good stuff mixed in there; but it’s Google; right? We really shouldn’t rely on man’s thoughts. We need to align our thoughts and ways with God’s because, after all, He is the master forgiver.
One lady, who has aligned her thoughts and ways with God, is Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. She has spent more than 50 years of her life walking with God. She’s written numerous books, including Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom. I wanted you to hear her definition of forgiveness, because it’s pretty powerful.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Nancy: You know, in essence, I think forgiveness is a promise. It’s a promise that: “I will never hold this offense against you again. I’m not going to hold it against you to God, or to you, or to anyone else. I’m clearing your record.” Now, that raises, immediately, the question of: “Well, if I release them/if I let them go—if I say, ‘I’m not going to hold this against them again,’—are they off the hook? Does that mean what they did doesn’t matter?”
What we’re really doing is saying: “I’m transferring this person from my courtroom to God’s. I’m not the judge; I’m not the jury. I’m a sinner, who is also in need of God’s grace and forgiveness every day of my life.” This person may have sinned in ways that I haven’t or ways we would consider greater; but I’m saying, “I’m transferring that person to God’s custody.” God is the wise judge, who will know what to do with that person and He knows how to bring that person to a place of repentance and restoration.
Dennis: It really is an issue of faith/of trusting that God is sovereign.
Nancy: And it’s relinquishing control. I think, for me as a woman, that’s what it is. A lot of times, I want to control how this person feels—the consequences that they experience as a result of the choices they’ve made.
It takes faith to say: “You know what? I’m not God. I’m not in charge; I’m not in control. I’m willing to let God have that role.” When I take that step of releasing control/releasing the offender from my courtroom, I’m really opening my own life up for God’s mercy and grace to flow through me in a greater way. I’m in desperate need of that mercy and grace myself.
Dennis: [Chuckling] You know, as you were talking, I was thinking, “I have to correct you.” You said, “As a woman, I’m struggling with the issue of control.” Well, I want you to know the other half of the species has a pretty big-time problem with control as well. Men struggle with being their own God—pride—not wanting to let go; but nurse those hurts as well.
Bob: We’re afraid—don’t you think?—that if we just forgive, we’re just saying, “Do it again.” I mean, if you let somebody off the hook, we’re just inviting them—saying, “There are no consequences for your actions; so, therefore, you are free to hurt me again.”
Nancy: That’s where, I think, we have to look at the power of the cross; because that’s where we see God forgiving those who have sinned against Him by offering up His Son as a sacrifice to take the penalty for our sins. We see Jesus crying out, saying, “Father, forgive them.” Well, was that just license for us to sin more?
What happens is—as we see the sacrifice that Christ made for our sins/as we look at the cross, that provokes brokenness in us. That causes us to come to God, humbly, and say: “I was wrong. I should have been there on that cross, but You died for me.” It’s the gospel; it’s good news. We embrace Christ, and the gospel, and the forgiveness of God because of seeing His brokenness.
I think, in many of our relationships—marriages, parent-child relationships, siblings, churches—that we’re not seeing that brokenness, and that humility, and people coming to deal with their issues; because they’ve not seen, in us, that example of the willingness to suffer/the willingness to be wronged on behalf of another.
Michelle: Such good words from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Did you catch what she said?—“Forgiveness is a promise. It’s a promise that I’ll never hold this offense against you again,”—clearing the record.
You remember how we started the show?—Leslie Leyland Fields. She had packed up all of her kids; she was flying them from Alaska to Florida; and she went all that way to give her dad a chance to make things right with her. She sort of just washed her hands of him.
Well, I want you to hear the rest of Leslie’s story. It starts out with a word of advice to anyone struggling to forgive a particular parent. Here is Leslie.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Leslie: If you don’t know much about your mother, or father, or whoever this person is—about their childhood/about the early years of their marriage—go find out. Go find out however you can.
For me, it meant another trip down to Florida. My father had one living relative, a brother. I flew down, and I spent several wonderful hours with them, just learning about his childhood/learning about what his experience was like. That gave me deep compassion for my father, because I recognized a whole pattern in his life—a pattern of failure and a pattern of rejection. He was rejected by many people in his life. That broke my heart; because I began to see him, for the first time, as a human being rather than as just my father.
Bob: You know, I sometimes wonder if people, who struggle with being able to forgive a father, or a mother, or somebody who is offended them in a terrible way, if they really do understand what God’s mercy toward them—
Bob: —has been.
Dennis: I think it’s our problem every time we don’t forgive.
Leslie: I agree.
Dennis: I think we are all just a step away from piously going, “I’m going to get back at you”; because we’ve forgotten God’s mercy/God’s grace.
Leslie: We’ve forgotten who we were—just really rotten, terrible sinners before God!
Bob: We’ve minimized it; we’ve dumbed it down.
Leslie: Oh, yes; yes.
Bob: That’s what we often do—we go, “Well, yes; I know God was gracious toward me, but I wasn’t that bad.”
Leslie: Yes; yes.
Bob: That’s our—that’s our thinking. That’s why the Bible comes back and says: “Oh, no; oh, no. You were…”
Dennis: “You did owe millions.”
Bob: “You did owe millions.”
Leslie: “You did owe more than you could ever pay in your lifetime.”
Bob: That’s right. Once you can get it, into your heart and head, that’s true—and God has released me from the obligation there—then it’s really hard to turn to the next person and say, “But you still owe me a pound of flesh in all of this.”
Dennis: Leslie, I don’t want to move past a message that is one that I know is on your heart; and that is, God has called us, as followers of Christ, to move into the world with this forgiveness—to not just hoard it in our families but to express this forgiveness in the marketplace and that it would be a balm of healing and peace to all that we come in contact with.
Leslie: Absolutely; we are called—forgiven people must be forgiving people. I hope that we can start right there in our families. I have to say my life has been changed. Forgiving my father has changed my life, because it is turning me into a person who wants to forgive/who is ready and quick to forgive. I’m not perfect. I’m—watch; someone is going to hear this broadcast, and they are going to test me. They are going to—[Laughter]—please don’t do that! [Laughter]—but my—God showed me His heart of mercy toward my father.
My father was given people—Christians, all along his path—right up until the moment he died. That’s how much God loved my father. He gave him unending moments of mercy to lead him to Himself.
Dennis: Leslie, there’s one last question I want to ask you that is going to test that forgiveness you gave your dad. If I had the ability, right now, to seat your dad across the table from you—and you could give him a tribute/a verbal tribute, and Bob and I would leave the studio—could you give him a tribute?
Leslie: I would honestly have a hard time saying: “Thank you for this,” and “Thank you for that.” I don’t have a lot of things that I can thank him for, but I can thank him for life. I can thank him for showing me God’s heart. I can thank him for receiving me when I flew down and visited with him. When I came down to be with him after his stroke, he listened to me. He heard me, I think, for the first time in my life. He heard me, and he saw me. I would thank him for those things.
Michelle: That’s tough. Can you imagine giving a tribute to a father who spent most of his life, kind of, missing in action? While there is not a lot that she can thank him for, Leslie Leyland Fields chose to thank him for her life and also for some of the moments that they were finally able to have once she forgave him.
You know, those scales of justice in the courtroom that Nancy was talking about: “Are they guilty, or are they innocent?”—those scales of justice belong in God’s courtroom, not ours. Yes; I understand that this journey of forgiveness—it’s not easy. It’s not, but it’s worth it. After all, it’s what our Savior did for us. As He hung on the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” That’s something to think about if you’re on your own forgiveness journey.
This is an issue that we’ve dealt a lot with, here, at FamilyLife®. We have a lot of helpful information for you at our website, along with Leslie Leyland Fields’ entire journey of forgiving her father. That’s located on our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com—that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Hey, next week, Ron Deal is going to talk about loss with us. He’s going to talk about how to deal with it and how to be in the community that comes around the person who is suffering. I guarantee that it will be helpful and an enlightening conversation. You won’t want to miss it.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Meredith Empie. Thanks to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer and second in command today; and Megan Martin, as always, is our production coordinator and helper with all the difficult pronunciations.
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