Forgive by Tim Keller

I accepted the challenge to read 12 books suggested by my friends on Facebook.

I have read the first of 12 books recommended by Facebook friends. The first was recommended by Bruce Bates: Tim Keller, *Forgive: Why Should I and How Can I*. This is my brief summary.

At bottom, we ought to forgive because God has forgiven us in Christ, and we pursue forgiveness by letting go of the right to revenge (whether physical, emotional, or relational vindictiveness such as ill will) as a form of voluntary suffering that imitates Jesus. Forgiveness is costly.

Forgiveness requires a sense of spiritual poverty or humility as in “there but for the grace of God go I.” It also requires a sense of spiritual wealth and assurance in the grace of God. To know the grace of God means the love of God flows through us toward others.

The pursuit of forgiveness, however, neither diminishes the harm done nor fails to name that harm. The authentic act of forgiveness names the evil, speaks the truth, and honors what is right. This may hinder reconciliation because it demands the offender own the evil done rather than excusing it and continuing in it.

Keller stresses that divine forgiveness is the payment of our debt through the penal substitution of Christ (though I don’t think penal substitution is necessarily an essential point–but the cross is). It is undeserved. It is free. But it is costly to the giver of this forgiveness. This is the *vertical* dimension of forgiveness: we are forgiven by God. This forgiveness is the resource out of which we forgive.

The second dimension of forgiveness is *internal*. By the power of the Spirit (Keller could have been more emphatic about the Spirit though the point is there), we are enabled to deal with feelings of personal vengeance, unbounded rage, and personal vendettas (including cutting words, gossip, etc.). Forgiven, we internally let go of hatred, rage, and payback. When God’s forgiveness is experienced deep in our hearts, we are enabled to move through our feelings—though the process is difficult and painful—toward a forgiveness that takes our hands off the other person’s throat.

The third dimension is *horizontal*. Since we have been forgiven by God and our hearts begin to experience divine healing, we don’t give up the goal of a reconciled and restored relationship. Sometimes it is not possible because there is an unwillingness to name the evil, repent of it, and change behaviors. Reconciliation is not cheap.

However, reconciliation is not necessary to experience the vertical and internal dimensions of forgiveness. We can experience healing without reconciliation, but reconciliation is nevertheless an important part of walking in love toward others, including our enemies.

I recommend this book. It is accessible and theologically credible. It addresses numerous aspects of a complicated, messy, and problematic topic. It will help you think through, practice, and embrace forgiveness as a major Christian virtue (including self-forgiveness as well as the forgiveness of others).

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