Today’s episode is packed! First, I walk you through some practical, research-backed thoughts on forgiveness and grace. Then I invite you into a conversation I had with none other than Max Lucado about how God’s forgiveness and grace played out in his own life. Here's what we cover:
1. The difference between grace & forgiveness (2:20)
2. Personality type & forgiveness (7:11)
3. 3 types of forgiveness (11:03)
4. How to forgive (15:15)
5. Max’s personal story (23:28)
6. Clear words of wisdom about toxicity (37:38)
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Research on forgiveness
“[Forgiveness] is an active process in which you make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings whether the person deserves it or not.” –Dr. Karen Swartz
“Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods.” –Dieterich Bonhoeffer
Related Podcast Episodes
Episode 49: Personality, the Big Five Traits, and Why Are We So Obsessed With Personality Types?
Episode 67: The Link Between Faith & Emotional Healing—Gen Z, College Life, & A Hidden Search for Meaning
Episode 75: Your Secret Weapon Against Stress & Anxiety—How to Transform Your Mind Through the Power of Prayer
Episode 76: When Self-Help Isn’t Enough—Finding the Faith & Strength to Move Forward after Loss & Heartache With Granger Smith
Episode 77: The Dark Night of the Soul—Why It Happens & What It Means
TBOY Episode 78
Alison: Hey everyone, and welcome back to this week's episode of The Best of You Podcast. I'm so glad you're here. I am so thrilled for these next two episodes, the final two episodes in this series on Faith Talks. We're going to talk about grace and forgiveness, and the two concepts are fairly intertwined.
They're different, but they're intimately linked. So in the first part of today's episode, I'm going to talk about what grace is, what forgiveness is, how they're different. I'm going to talk about forgiveness and what's so tricky about it, what's so hard about it. Then we're going to jump into a couple of interviews with people who are talking about these concepts, who are illustrating these concepts, who are showing us how these concepts play out in their day to day lives.
So first let's talk about what grace is. We throw this word around–we want to be people who are gracious. We want to be people who demonstrate grace. We want to receive grace. We want others to be gracious toward us. So what do we mean by that?
Grace more broadly defined is a posture of kindness. It's a posture of what I like to call goodwill. Which might mean you tend to give others the benefit of the doubt. You tend to give grace. The reason that person cut me off in traffic or was rude to me in the checkout line is because they were having a hard day.
I want to have a gracious, generous outlook. We want others to have a gracious outlook toward us. We think about God's grace. We think about the reality that God is constantly showing grace to us, which means God constantly has a posture of goodwill toward us. It doesn't mean that God isn't aware of where we're getting it wrong, where we're missing the mark, where we're a little bit far from God.
I don't think God is naive. I think God sees those things, but God gives us grace constantly. God is the master of grace giving. As we receive more and more of God's grace toward us, it allows us to have a reservoir of grace inside our souls that spills out to the people all around us.
So grace is a general posture.
When we get into forgiveness, we're talking about a subcategory–a specific form of grace. Forgiveness is given out in the context of a specific offense. It's initiated by a wrongdoing or a series of wrongdoings, a lot of wrongdoings. It doesn't have to be just one wrongdoing. So forgiveness is a posture of the heart, the soul, the mind toward someone who has wronged. Something that violated us in some way.
It involves letting go of the resentment, the anger, or the desire to get even. Again, there's some assumption in this definition of forgiveness, that there is cause to be angry. There is cause to feel resentful. There is cause to want to get even. There is a desire at its best for justice–something wrong happened.
Forgiveness requires us to be very honest about the wrong that occurred. Forgiveness isn't glossing over things. Forgiveness requires us to be very in tune with, “This was wrong. I was wronged in this situation”. It means facing those unpleasant emotions, the resentment, the anger that pops up.
It doesn't mean denying those emotions. We're going to get into this. This is a little bit of a spoiler alert, but I've got a whole new series coming up on emotions that I'm so excited about. So I'm going to touch on it today. There's more to come in the coming weeks, but forgiveness means acknowledging those negative emotions that understandably surface when someone is hurting you, someone is mistreating you, someone isn't. honoring you, someone isn't respecting you, someone isn't giving you the kindness that you are giving to them.
It evokes negative feelings in us. That's normal. What we do with those negative feelings is on us. Forgiveness is one of the tools, one of the strategies that's available to us.
There are a couple of things I want you to hear today before we dive into these episodes:
Number one, a posture of grace and a posture of forgiveness in psychology research, these attributes are correlated with improved mental health in general. If we are people who tend to give others the benefit of the doubt, if we are people who tend to release resentment and anger and hold a forgiving posture toward others, we see improved mental health benefits.
This is secular research. These attributes are correlated with increased levels of happiness, decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety, and a generally more positive outlook on life.
In general, it's not healthy for us to harbor a lot of ill will. It's not healthy for us to harbor resentment and anger. It doesn't do good for our bodies, our souls, or our minds. We see this time and time again in the research. So we do want to be people of grace. We do want to be people of forgiveness.
But there are a couple of nuances to that. Number one, research in psychology has also established a strong correlation between the ability to forgive others and certain personality traits. You probably know this anecdotally. You probably right now as you're listening, can think about yourself and recognize, I'm someone who forgives pretty easily, even when I've been wronged.
Or you might be aware that it's really hard for me to forgive. I don't like it. I don't like seeing wrongs. It's really hard for me. There's probably a good reason for that.
Back in episode 49, we talked about the big five personality traits that are the most researched personality traits in psychology that tend to be how we're wired.They tend to be pretty stable over time. One of those traits is agreeableness.
Some people tend to have a more agreeable approach. For those folks, indeed, what we find is that forgiveness and grace come a little bit more easily than folks who have lower levels of agreeableness. Now, if you go back to those episodes, you remember there's not a good or bad here.
The people who score lower on agreeableness tend to be more invested in justice. They tend to be more invested in calling out wrongs. So there's a need for all types. If you're somebody who struggles with forgiveness, my guess is you are somebody who really hates injustice, and that's a good quality.
Doesn't mean you don't have to work on forgiveness or grace. But it does mean we don't want you to lose that quality of calling a spade and naming what you see and calling out wrongs. There's a real need for you in our world.
For those of you for whom forgiveness and grace come a little bit more easily, there's a need for you to not jump to a naive glossing over. That isn't actually forgiveness. I put myself in this category.
For those of us who have a highly developed fawn response, who are a little bit more of a people pleaser, we can call ourselves gracious and forgiving, but what's really happening is we're not looking at the hard facts.
We're not looking at the reality that there was a wrong. The invitation to us is to get a little bit more in touch with what I believe matters to God also, which is that justice piece, that truth telling piece. This wasn't right. The way this other person treated me, it wasn't right.
I'm willing to forgive that person. Yes, that may come a little bit easily to me, but I'm also working on naming when something isn't right. That's also a part of my growth spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically.
So the first thing as you're listening to these conversations I'm going to have today and next week, I want you to hold that in mind. Is there a personality disposition that makes some of these things a little bit easier? Where are you on that spectrum? If it's harder for you, what's your invitation in terms of forgiveness? If it's easier for you, what's your invitation in terms of forgiveness?
If it's harder for you, your invitation might be to go through the mental rigor of working to release resentments and anger. If you're someone for whom forgiveness comes pretty easily, your invitation might be to work on naming and honoring wrongs that have been committed at least before God and with a couple of other people being really honest about areas where you've been hurt.
There is hurt there and you need to also face the hurt before you jump into forgiveness because it's also not wise to let other people take advantage of us. We need all of these tools in our tool belt.
Finally, I want to talk a little bit about different types of forgiveness: number one, there's forgiving yourself. Sometimes we wrong ourselves. We do something we know we shouldn't do, or we do something that at the time is the best we can do, that years later we're beating ourselves up or we're mad at ourselves that we did that thing that we're now suffering the consequences of.
This is real self forgiveness, and this is where I love that parts work where we look at a part of us that did the best we could at a given moment in time. We bring that part out in front of us. We stop beating ourselves up. We invite God into that experience because God doesn't beat us up. God names without shame. We walk through a process of forgiving that part of ourselves in partnership with God's spirit. It's so powerful. We'll get into more of that in these upcoming episodes.
There's also forgiving others. This is the most commonly known form of forgiveness, and there's a couple of forms of forgiving others.
Number one, there's forgiving others when they ask for forgiveness, when they acknowledge a wrong. Maybe somebody has hurt you. A parent has hurt you. A friend has hurt you. A spouse has hurt you and they've come to you and said, I'm really sorry. I messed up. I'm going to do better next time. In those instances, forgiveness can be hard, but it's sometimes a little bit easier.
Then there’s when someone owns what they have done, sometimes somebody asks for forgiveness, but they don't really change. That's a little bit harder.
Then sometimes we have those situations where someone has wronged us in deep ways. Maybe they've wronged us systematically time and time again and they've never owned it. They don't even think they've done anything wrong. They might not even know the extent of the damage they've caused. Those are really hard situations to forgive, especially if you're still in a relationship with that person.
I'm going to come back to that in one second, but I want to name the third type of forgiveness, and that's collective forgiveness. It’s where a group of people or a community of people or a culture of people has harmed you. If you've been part of a church community that harmed you, the whole culture was toxic and that community harmed you, that can be really hard, especially if you cannot get away from the group that has hurt you.
So I want to touch on this category of forgiveness that so many of us, all of us at some point in our lives have experienced a hurt from someone else where that person doesn't know or doesn't care that they've heard us. This is really hard, especially if you're in an ongoing relationship with this person, and I want to say up front that I believe very clearly that boundaries and forgiveness go hand in hand.
I do not think forgiveness means continuing to allow yourself to be put into harm's way. If you've received any of those messages that you should forgive and forget and let this person keep harming you, that is wrong. You will hear our guest say this today, and I'm so grateful that he did.
Here's the tricky thing about forgiveness in those cases. We don't do ourselves any favors by holding on to anger and resentment. It doesn't do good in our own souls to hang on to those feelings longer than we should know.
We need to honor them. We need to notice them. We need to let those feelings run their course. But the minute we start to grab on and feed on anger and feed on resentment over time, that's not healthy for us. There's a lot of research that supports that. So we want to honor those feelings, but we want to release those feelings.
I believe that one of the best ways we can do that is to set healthy boundaries with those who are harming us. Once you trust yourself and God long enough that you've established that healthy distance from that person in whatever way that you can, then you can begin to do the work in your heart of releasing anger and resentment.
I want to be clear about that. Boundaries go hand in hand with forgiveness. Getting enough healthy distance from a person who has hurt you, especially if they're unrepentant, especially if they're not saying they're sorry, especially if there's no bid for restoration and where reconciliation is not possible.
Forgiveness is about getting healthy distance, whether that distance is physical and you never let that person into your space again, or whether there's emotional distance, maybe with someone that you have to have an ongoing relationship with, but you recognize that person will never be able to give me what I actually need.
You can then begin to do the work internally to release resentment and anger, and you release that to God, and you are able to release that to God because God is a God of justice. So you're not gaslighting yourself. You're not saying what they're doing is okay. You're saying that is wrong. Simultaneously, I can release that to you, God, because you are the God of all justice.
I can't do anything about this. All I can do is protect myself from further harm, while simultaneously releasing to you the anger and resentment I feel. You are the God of justice, and I can release that to you. That's powerful. That's a powerful form of forgiveness. It doesn't mean you let that person continue to hurt you.
How do you do that? Again, if you're in that category of someone who's been hurt, and maybe you've got some boundaries in place. You're learning how to get some healthy distance from this other person, from this situation. But you're aware of that resentment and negativity inside.
Dr. Karen Swartz, she's a researcher out of Johns Hopkins, she says it this way. She says, forgiveness is an active process in which you make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings, whether the person deserves it or not.
That's tricky. That's hard. I like this definition though, because she's saying a couple of things. It's an active process. It's ongoing. It's not a one time event, especially if it's a really deep hurt. If it's an ex, if it's a parent, if it's a child, an adult child who's really hurt you.
It's a conscious, active process where you're having to do what I call “mind your mind”. There's some mental rigor of noticing, oh man, there's that negativity. Especially if you have to see that person, there's that negativity. It's a process of noticing that, naming that, and not shaming yourself for having that feeling.
There's a justification for it. That person hurt me. Also God, will you help me release that negative feeling? Will you help me release that resentment that I feel in my soul? Will you be the God of justice? Because I've done everything I can do to protect myself. This person isn't changing. They're never going to change.
It's not good for me to harbor resentment in this situation. I can name it. I can honor it. I can do what I can, what's my part to protect myself, and then I need to release it. God, I got to release it because it's not healthy for me to hang on to. Will you help me release it?
It's a mental muscle you're developing as you learn to forgive. It is an active process, and I believe it happens in the context of healthy boundary setting. You set the healthy boundaries. You do what you can to protect yourself from ongoing harm. That's part of wisdom. You notice the negativity when it comes up. You honor it. You go to God and you release it. God, you are the God of justice. I release that negativity. I release that other person into your care.
You are the God who knows all. You are the God who knows more than I do. You release it and God takes it from there. We can trust God because God is a good God. God is a God of justice. He sees everything. He understands everything. He's big enough to take these heavy burdens that we bear.
Alright, so I wanna move into today's interview. Most of you are familiar with Max Lucado. He is a pastor, a speaker, and a prolific best selling author. He is known for his deep understanding of grace.
I got a chance to meet Max recently and noticed that he is someone who embodies grace and it's not cheap grace. Dietrich Bonhoeffer talks about the difference between cheap grace and costly grace. Costly grace recognizes when there's wrongs. There's a cost to grace and Max is somebody who understands that.
Today we talk about Max's brand new book called God Never Gives Up On You: What Jacob's Story Teaches Us about Grace, Mercy, and God's Relentless Love. I love this conversation and it's a beautiful book. If you're in need of some grace of your own, some encouragement, this is a great book and you'll hear in today's episode that Max doesn't beat around the bush about toxicity.
He names it and he owns it and he calls it out where it is in the Bible. It's all over the Bible. Yet God is still a God of grace. I'm so pleased to bring you my conversation with Max Lucado.
Alison: Can you tell us a little bit, I know from your story that before you were a pastor, you worked to pay your way through college. It sounds like you initially wanted to become a lawyer before you discovered Bible courses and discovered the calling to be a pastor.
This is a while back. Can you tell us a little bit about that younger version of you and what his understanding of grace was at that time in your life?
Max: You've done your homework, Alison.
Alison: A little.
Max: Yeah, that's pre NOAA, pre ARC, I'm so old…
Alison: I love that stuff. That's the hard earned wisdom that you've earned.
Max: Yeah I don't know if you have kids, but you would not have wanted your kids to hang out with or date the teenage/early 20 year old, 20 something version of me. I was pretty much a scoundrel. I was a six pack a night guy, I was a brawler, I was all about me, and part of that was due to the fact that I had reacted to an understanding of faith that we would call legalism.
Where your relationship with God depends upon performance. I tried my best for a few years and I couldn't. A combination of peer pressure and raging testosterone and societal issues later, I cashed in that chip and said that's never going to work for me.
By the influence of a good friend, a guy who's still a friend to this day, I decided to try attending church again and I heard a pastor describe what we call grace and don't know how I missed it.
I don't fault anybody in my youth–I probably wasn't listening–but I became convinced that God could forgive a jerk like me. It was truly life changing, Alison. We hear people all the time say, my life was heading off the rails. My life was heading off the rails.
Alcoholism is a major issue in my family of origin. My brother died as a result of alcohol. I have several aunts and so I was headed off the rails and grace is what caught my attention.
Alison: Yeah. I love the focus on this in the book–God never gives up on you. Max, one of the things we focus on in this podcast is that healing is a process. It's not one and done. Grace comes in. Jesus comes in. We're changed. We're changing over the whole course of our lives, which is what I love about what you did with the story of Jacob.
In the book you talk about how Jacob had to reckon with his past at a key inflection point, and I write about this as well. I love this moment. I love how you describe this moment. What are some moments in your own life where you've had to reckon with the past and wrestle with God a little bit as you considered moving into your future?
Max: Boy, you get right to the core, don't you, Alison?
Alison: That's what we're all about.
Max: Yeah, that old saying is true. You can't move into the future until you've dealt with your past. And dealing with your past is challenging. Apart from the grace of God, I would think it's impossible. I had and have messed up some really good relationships through the years due to my inability to exercise self control. I also have an addiction to the approval of people, which is interesting because I have a real curiosity about theology, and sometimes what I begin to discover in Scripture is not what I was taught or what others taught me.
I'll have to part ways a bit with people and chart my own course. I find that very hard because I like people to like me so much. I'm not a disrupter. I'm a pleaser. I see that now. But I have found that I did not manage that well.
As you ask about my past, the two things that I've had to trust is that God's grace is adequate for forgiveness for my life in my early years, the inappropriate behavior, and in uncontrolled passions. Even as a pastor, sometimes I cut people off rather than talk it through with them. I would avoid them and that's not healthy. I've had to go back and mend a few of those bridges over the years.
Alison: Isn't that something? The benefit of growth as we grow in our own healing, we become more mature and we receive more and more of God's grace. It's paradoxical. It's not that we become more and more like what you call, I love what you call the super-saint. It's not that we become more aware of our super-sainthood.
It's almost that we become more aware of, oh my gosh, every step of the way, the more aware I become of God's goodness and God's love. Simultaneously, we become a little bit more aware of our failings. It is such a paradox is what I hear you saying. We have to constantly reckon with that.
Max: As God gets bigger we appropriately get smaller, and that's the way it should be. Trusting in the great grace of God, how strong He is, I was reflecting earlier, maybe three or four days ago, with my family, how we used to put our girls to bed at night.
We have three daughters, of course they're all grown now, and they have kids now. We were talking back when they were little, and we had a bedtime routine. Part of that bedtime routine is that I would allow each of my daughters to feel my biceps.
Now, once upon a time, I actually had biceps. I don't anymore. There's more sag than strength there. But we'd make a big deal out of it. They would say, daddy, you're so strong. Of course, they're already getting ready for bed. They've had their bath. This is the last thing I would do before we'd tuck them in.
My thinking was, I want them to go to sleep knowing that they have a strong father and that they will rest better having felt their father's muscles. I didn't know I was actually practicing theology by doing that but I do think that we're stronger as we let God get bigger and we allow ourselves to be small.
To be that child that feels the muscles of God. These stories in the Bible, like the story of Jacob, really celebrate not Jacob, but God, and give us an opportunity to really place our hand on his biceps and see that he's the one in control.
He's got a great plan for us. He's not going to deviate from it. He's not going to abandon us, and we can trust him to get us home safely. Because in the end, it's his strength that matters, not ours. It's his grip on us that matters, not our grip on Him.
Alison: Yeah. Thank goodness. I love what you said. You said apart from God's grace, I think it would be impossible to face ourselves honestly, to reconcile with our pasts. It's that cushion of grace and the bigness of it that makes it possible for us to tell the truth about our own inadequacies and the areas in our own lives. You call it the tilted halo, right?
Max: Anxiety is running unbridled through our society and I think one of the things that we don't talk about as a cause for anxiety is an unresolved past. If I've got secrets in my past, if I've got mistakes in my past that I've never dealt with in a healthy fashion, the unhealthy approach to dealing with my past, it creates stress.
I'm either suppressing it, I'm hiding from it, I'm working my way, shopping my way, eating my way, drinking my way to get around it…
Alison: …pleasing our way…
Max: lazing my way, and it becomes a hectic race to outrun my past. Christians, we can say, you know, what I did was terrible. It's horrible what I did. I will not pretend. I do not pretend it was good. Nope, no more. Not gonna justify it. Not gonna deny it. I'm gonna own it.
But I'm gonna present it to God and allow him to speak words of forgiveness over it. That I think, I really think, is an unaddressed issue or unaddressed approach in our dealing with anxiety. Because if we can let that pass, be presented, healed, prayed for, forgiven, then we've got a load we can release and move on with life.
Alison: Yeah. Again, that grace, I love how you're describing the bigness of God's grace is paradoxically what allows us to change and heal and grow. We don't heal in the context of criticism. We heal in the context of that compassion, that kindness from God.
You've met with, no doubt, thousands of people over the years as a pastor and through your books and through your ministry. What are some things you see that make it hard for people to really receive deep in their bones, this grace that you're describing?
Max: That's a great question. I think it's the fact that nobody else has given us that grace. If I have let people down, and I know I have, and they continually remind me of it, or shame me about it, for me to hear a pastor say, yeah, but God forgives you, in the back of my mind, I say, yeah yeah. You mean my ex-wife won't forgive me, but the God of the universe will? That doesn't add up.
Because others fall short, because forgiving others is hard, because others have a hard time forgiving you. Please, let God be God. He can. He's already seen your life from beginning to end. From start to finish. He's chosen you. He's decided you're worth having in His eternal kingdom.
Even if no one else can, even if you can’t forgive yourself, take step one–trust that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us and that the God who knows us, loves us, and he can forgive us. I think that's a challenge.
Alison: Boy, I think you're taking a peek into my playbook here. We did an episode recently with a young woman she works for me, who met Christ through her peers at Harvard. She was in a search for meaning and she said exactly what you said. She said, I'd lived a whole life of nobody really showing me love, showing me grace.
So when people tell me, God loves you, that doesn't mean anything to me. I don't have a lived experience of that. What she said changed were those people on her campus showing her that love, showing her that embodied glimpse of grace. That's where we also become that embodiment of grace for those around us.
Sometimes our showing that to other people is even more powerful than those words. We have to back that up. I'm in no doubt that you're showing that to so many people through your written words.
Max: I hope so. Being kind to people, being a genuine listening ear, and expressing acceptance. I know of a fella where I play golf who was involved in a horrible accident and a person died as a result of that accident. He is so broken, and this might sound like I'm self promoting, I'm not.
Every time I see him, we talk, I check on him and he tears up. He tears up. He said, people don't know what to say to me. So I think that's what you're talking about, that kindness. When others find it difficult, if we can at least extend a hand, put an arm around the shoulder, ask how they're doing…we likely underestimate how powerful that is in people's worlds.
Alison: More is caught than taught. You're showing him the love of God in that moment. I love that. One of the things, Max, I really appreciated and we talk a lot about on this podcast because in my world of trauma and therapy, the reality is we are bumping up against toxicity. It's real.
Sometimes folks find themselves in toxic relationships, in toxic systems. We have to be wise. We have to be shrewd. We can't be naive. You talk about unflinchingly the toxic cultures present both in Jacob's time and in our time today, and I appreciate that you named that. That you don't try to skirt around that.
I think people need to be equipped. We need to not be naive. I think sometimes as Christians we hear the message we need to love people and that doesn't always work. Tell me a little bit about why you included that, how you've navigated that as a pastor and in your own life.
Max: Yeah, the reason that conversation got included in this book about Jacob is that one of the saddest stories in the story of Jacob involved, toward the end of his life, he's returning to Bethel with his family. He had a large family, two wives, two handmaidens, a dozen kids, who knows how many servants.
They camp near a place called Shechem. Shechem has been unearthed by archaeologists. It was a city. Of course, they were Bedouins, and so they were probably attracted to this stone walled city with streets and shops and maybe an opportunity to drink something other than desert water, have a good meal. They started living and put their roots down near Shechem.
They weren't supposed to. They were supposed to keep going to Bethel. But while there Jacob had one daughter Dinah. While there, she was violated by one of the men. That man happened to be named Shechem, he was the son of the ruler, and then he not only violated her, but he wanted to bring her into the city of Shechem to be his either lover or wife or something.
He wanted her. It was pathetic. It's a horrible story of misogyny and brutality, nothing good, and it gets worse. Jacob was passive. He didn't respond. He didn't defend his daughter. When the blood brothers of Dinah learned about what happened, they went Rambo on the village and they convinced the men, (the story's brutal), they convinced all the men in the village to be circumcised. Then while the men were healing, they murdered all the men. People who've not read the Bible say that's in the Bible? Yeah, that's in the Bible. That's Jacob? Yep, that's Jacob.
It was horrible. What had happened is a toxic culture existed. A toxicity where the strong manipulate, control, brutalize the weak. Where those in power take advantage of those who have less power.
Toxic culture has a strict pecking order and those in control. Hurt those who have less control. It's not it's not a culture in which kindness is valued, but strength is valued in power. It's not a culture in which forgiveness is a virtue. Vengeance is a virtue.
We can find ourselves in these cultures. Jacob did. Jacob should have gotten his family out of there sooner. He eventually did, but not before the damage was done. Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation like that. It could be in a work situation, school situation, sadly a church situation.
It could even be in a family. In those situations, we need to number one, realize this can cause damage. Wives, if your husband is behaving like a shechem, get your kids and get out. Get out fast. Men, if you are turning a blind eye towards Shechemites, then you need to repent, take a stand for what's good and either get your family out or confront what the evil is.
This is something we can't mess with. Sometimes we can even see this in a nation. In a culture where we begin to elevate somebody who's full of braggadocio, is that the right word? Swagger. A lot of swagger. We need to watch out when that happens. We need to. It is a warning. I think this story in the Bible, it serves as a warning. A toxic culture can really hurt people, hurt a generation.
Alison: I appreciate your naming that so much as a pastor, as someone people look up to. I think that's so important, especially for women to hear, but for all of us to hear, to not be naive about the reality of toxicity around us.
Max, as we're closing today, I want to ask you a question I like to ask all of my guests, which is, if you think back to that younger young man, way back in the day, maybe before he had really encountered God's grace, what would you want him to know that you know now? If you could have a minute with him, a moment to meet with him, what would you want him to know?
Max: The honest conversation would have to do with treating women with respect, would have to do with acknowledging the danger of alcohol, and would have to do with choosing the right friends. I think he knew those things, but he wasn't listening. He needed somebody to sit down eyeball to eyeball with him and say them.
I'm making it sound like that period lasted a long time. Really, it was a two or three year period, 17 years of age. But I'm so grateful. I'm so grateful, Alison, that I didn't cause any damage during that time. I was bad enough to learn to acknowledge how bad I could be.
I am grateful my life was heading off the tracks. So I am forever grateful to the pastors, to the friends who taught me that God loves me and God gives a second chance, who introduced me to the Holy Spirit, who urged me to read the Bible. I'm forever grateful. But I would like to have a face to face with that kid.
Alison: I love that. I love that there's a loving firmness in the face to face. This is how God redeems all of our stories. The humility too. We all have that in our life. That's why I like to ask the question–every single one of us can look back and reconnect with that former part of us, both from a place of, wow, I've come so far and I’m so grateful because without that younger version, those needs, those raw edges, we wouldn't have stumbled into the fullness of what it means. We would be, oh yeah, I'm all set. I've been cool my whole life.
I love that. Thank you so much for joining us. It's been an honor to have you today.
Max: Thank you. All the very best. Thanks for letting me be a part of your podcast.