I don't think that there are many issues that come up more often than forgiveness. I sense this every time I preach about it. I can sense that I'm talking about an issue that is real for every person who is present.
Learning how to forgive isn't easy. Hurts often run deep; some situations that demand forgiveness are almost unspeakable. How does one forgive when the offense is so great, and the wound is so deep? To make things even more complicated, people who teach about forgiveness often offer conflicting answers. Not only is forgiveness difficult, but it's also frequently misunderstood.
Given these difficulties, I suspect I'll be using Unpacking Forgiveness quite a bit in the coming years. It's written by a pastor - Chris Brauns - and it reminds me what good pastoral practice should look like:
- It's biblical - I've heard a lot of opinions about forgiveness. Brauns, thankfully, is driven by Scripture rather than his own views. It's hard to find anything in the book that isn't grounded in Scripture.
- It's clear - There's a lot of fuzzy thinking about forgiveness. I know; there was some fuzziness in my thinking when I began this book. For instance, many of us fall into a therapeutic model of forgiveness, which makes forgiveness about our emotions rather than a relationship. Brauns does a good job of untangling the issues and clearly communicating which approaches are right, and why it matters.
- It's practical - This is not some abstract treatise. Anyone struggling with the forgiveness can pick up this book and immediately benefit. It answers practical questions about when (and when not to) confront, how to go about forgiving, how to respond to the unrepentant, how to conquer bitterness, and more.
- It's sensitive - Brauns sometimes has hard things to say, and when he does, you can feel him wince. He's committed to telling the truth, even though he knows it's sometimes not what we want to hear. You get the sense that he cares.
- It's gospel-based - Brauns takes us to the gospel. Human forgiveness is ultimately related to divine forgiveness, and rooted in God's grace.
Bruans helps us understand that while we should always offer forgiveness and show love, forgiveness cannot take place until it is accepted by the other party. Forgiveness is more than an emotion; it is a transaction between two parties. This helps us avoid some of the problems that come from automatic, therapeutic models of forgiveness.
In short, forgiveness is one of the most important, practical topics out there, and Unpacking Forgiveness is the clearest, most biblical and practical thing I've read. It untangles an important issue, and I hope it is widely read and applied.
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