Conclusion to Free of Charge

I think that in the midst of reading and reflecting on this book, I realize that for me to try and give a review does not quite give justice to what Volf is trying to articulate here. Volf’s book is accessible and readable to the average person, and yet what he is trying to do is construct a theology of giving and forgiveness through the lens of Christology and perichoresis. It is a deep subject, and I think that blogging about it has helped me absorb some of the information better. I hope it has been helpful to you.

Well lets move forward. I have already included in my two previous reviews how God gives and forgives, and we have seen how humans give, and now we move on to how we should and can forgive. Instead of trying to track the flow of Volf’s thoughts and lay out his reasoning and exegesis, I thought I would just include some key quotes in the book and then follow them up with some short additions of my own.

Chapter 5: How shoud we forgive?

“We should absorb the wrongdoing in order to transform the wrongdoers” (161). The goal is the hope to end the cycles of violence and create an atmosphere of shalom. Revenge multiplies evil, it doesn’t end it. God bore our sin and we should learn to free other people of sin’s guilt and power.

And yet, “We also shouldn’t forgive exactly as God forgives” (163). As we have seen in relation to giving, God is infinite and powerful enough to take on forgiveness in its entirety, we cannot even grasp this and can only forgive as much as possible. “We imitate God as instruments of God: God gives and forgives, and we make God’s giving and God’s forgiving our own” (165).

In forgiving, our primary focus should be on the other, though we may experience freedom too, we must hope that in our forgiveness the other is released of their debt and freed from guilt. “Forgiveness cuts the tie of equivalence between the offense and the way we treat the offender” (170).  To forgive is to blame, not to punish. So in our very act of forgiving, we are accusing and placing blame but we are not to seek retribution. Our hope should be freedom for all those involved. Christ is the end of retribution. Another interesting marker in this book is the role of memory, and that in order for forgiveness to reach its ultimate state, the memory of the sin must eventually fall into oblivion. “Far from being a victory of evil, consigning forgiven wrongdoings to oblivion- done at the right time and in the right way– denies evil the honor and the glory of memory” (176- Italics mine). Volf does add that this discernment must be used to realize the time and way we can begin to forget the wrongdoing, for if there is potential for harm then we should remember the offense.

The act of forgiveness is always a social relationship, and because so it must also involve repentance. If the one being forgiven does not accept his guilt, then true forgiveness has not yet happened, it just hangs in the balance. It is like a package that has been rejected by the receiver, it has been given but not received. The hope and goal of forgiveness is that the forgiven will repent, will seek restitution (not by compensating for what has been done but in gratitude and longing for peace), and that both sides will finally be reconciled to one another.

Chapter 6: But how can we forgive?

“We forgive by making God’s forgiveness our own. And even then, we don’t forgive the fact of someone’s guilt, the so-called objective guilt. God has already done that. We help remove the offender’s feeling of guilt in regard to us, the so-called subjective guilt” (196). We only have the right to forgive because God has done it already, he alone has the right to forgive and has exercised that right. By Christ indwelling in us, we are able to act as little Christs and are given power that we did not have prior to our encounter with God. That power involves us being able to forgive, for we cannot forgive on our own, but with Christ we are able to forgive.

What I liked about Volf’s concluding chapter was his admission that we are in fact finite forgivers. Our forgiving is faulty, provisional, and tentative; God’s forgiving is faultless, final, and definitive (220). Therefore we must go about our forgiving in humility and in faithfulness to the God who is the ultimate forgiver.

So what are your thoughts? Anything that you think is missing or anything that stands out to you?

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4 Comments

Filed under Faith, Gospel

4 responses to “Conclusion to Free of Charge

  1. anglopressy

    I think that developing forgiveness is a lot like sex. It starts out very awkward and looks pretty silly. But there are times when you can and do participate in a way that is glorious and illuminating. I suppose I could think of a better analogy if I were to try a little harder, but I think that one works relatively well.

    It sounds like Volf would be a good person to read alongside Kenneth Bailey.

  2. So am I masturbating if I forgive myself for something?

    (Sometimes metaphors don’t always work if you draw them out too long- though I like your metaphor Jared. Sometimes it is awkward and silly, then it can be wonderful and freeing other times)

  3. anglopressy

    Yeah, in the word of NT Wright, “illustrations are bad animals, because they never have four legs.”

  4. Micky

    About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

    Peace Be With You
    Micky

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