Thursday, March 31, 2011

UnConditional: The call of Jesus to Radical Forgivenes...

  For the past week or so I have been reading the book “UnConditional: The call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness” by Brian Zahnd (which you can get for free as an EBook on both and  Honestly I picked up the book as a challenge for myself….I am not the most forgiving person ever…and since I honestly do want honor God in every area of my life and become a more forgiving person… I figured a book like this might start me off in the right direction.  So I tried to be as open as possible as I read each chapter and tried to glean as much as possible from each page…and let me tell you, there was a lot of great stuff in there.
  In the first Chapter the author shares a story, taken from the book “The sunflower” by Simon Wiesenthal, about a Austrian Jew imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War two, who is brought to the bedside of a dying SS officer to hold his hand while he confesses all the horrible things he has done and then who asks forgiveness of him.  “The sunflower” goes on to share the responses of 53 prominent thinkers of what they would have done in that position (would they forgive or not)…but Zahnd’s point, which he shares in his book by giving his own response to the question, is that Forgiveness is the foundation of Christianity…but not just forgiveness….rather the reconciliation, restoration, redemption that comes through it!
  Using the back drop of the sermon on the mount and the crucifixion/resurrection of Jesus Zahnd shares how in the world we are taught a system of revenge…an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth….and how we all seek justice on our own terms.  Yet God calls us to a new standard….to take up our cross and as Christ did on THE cross, “Forgive”.  He talks about how the pardon of the cross is scandalous in a society where payment or punishment is required for wrong…and how because of this radical forgiveness of Christ we are to become people who, unlike society, offer that same extravagant forgiveness to others.   This book is full of stories of people who were truly wronged and had no reason to forgive, but did….people like Pope John Paul who forgave his shooter and the Amish community that forgive the man who shot up their school house killing five young girls….and in so doing makes the point that forgiveness brings an end to the cycle of revenge!
   The author also talks about the idea of justice and how we all seek justice from our own point of view and at times what might seem “just” to you will seem “unjust” to me and thus ultimately true justice can only come from God the father.  He shares how forgiveness is not “forgetting” the past but that “forgiveness, when done as an expression of faith in God, allows us to have a new perspective on the past”.   It’s quite powerful stuff actually (although I can’t articulate it nearly as well as he does)! 
    Although I wish I could say that after reading this book I no longer struggle with forgiveness….that upon reading the last chapter I’ve just let everything go for good….but that’s just not reality.  Instead I’ve been holding onto a quote Zahnd made early on in the book that “...Forgiveness is an act of will and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart"....and I find myself each day, sometimes each moment, coming before God and asking Him to help me to forgive and to understand more fully how much I have been forgiven so that the overflow of his forgiveness would run through me to the others in my life (Lord hear my prayer).

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