Book Recommendation: Unpacking Forgiveness

Somehow Chris Braun, pastor of the Congregational Christian Church in Stillman Valley, Illinois, has managed to write a book that is biblically faithful, theologically nuanced, clear, practical, and fun to read. In Unpacking Forgiveness Braun has a written a book that every Christian would greatly benefit from and that I personally thoroughly enjoyed.

Starting with the biblical command that Christians are to forgive others as God has forgiven them, Braun defines forgiveness as “a commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated.” Each chapter elaborates on this definition and is accompanied by heart wrenching stories that help the reader see the practical ramifications for their own relationships.

In the course of the book he tackles misconceptions such as that forgiveness is primarily a feeling (what he calls therapeutic forgiveness) and that it can be granted to the unrepentant. The latter may be the most shocking to some as it is popular to believe that a true Christian forgives unconditionally. He also has a chapter in which he addresses what’s at stake when we refuse to forgive someone who has hurt us saying, “If you are someone who says that you cannot or will not forgive, then you should fear for your soul. Saying, ‘I cannot or will not forgive,’ is essentially another way of saying, ‘I am thinking about going to hell.'”

The book continues into areas of application, asking when it is appropriate to simply overlook an offense and offering principles on how to actually go about seeking forgiveness and reconciliation. Brauns offers biblical wisdom on what to do if you find that you simply cannot forgive and he provides principles on responding to the unrepentant. He writes about bitterness, about the inability to get over a wrong committed and about those times that Christians simply cannot agree. A useful Appendix includes a grab-bag of questions and answers (How can I be sure that God has forgiven me? How can I forgive myself? Should adultery always be confessed?).

Each chapter concludes with a set of discussion questions useful for personal application or as the basis for a small group discussion. The book is available at The Crossing bookstore.

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