Book of the Week 8 – Unpacking Forgiveness

Unpacking Forgiveness – biblical answers for complex questions and deep wounds,  Chris Brauns, Crossway, 2008, 235 pages

When the congregation of St Helen’s Bishopsgate returned to their building in 1996 after the IRA bomb which had caused huge damage to the building 4 years previously, news reporters asked Dick Lucas the then Rector whether he forgave the bombers, he replied “I don’t believe they’ve asked for forgiveness”. I’ve always found that answer very helpful and yet there’s lots of talk in Christian circles of total forgiveness and unconditional forgiveness, even ludicrously of forgiving God. Those who stand up and declare that they forgive those who’ve committed atrocities against them even murdering members of their own family, we can only admire their Christian love but those who have committed these crimes often don’t want that forgiveness. There certainly isn’t reconciliation.

Chris Brauns has written this excellent book which is wonderfully accessible on the whole subject. He 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” It’s not catchy but it is brilliantly helpful. I was put onto this book by Australian friends who had been through a very difficult time in their church and I was slightly sceptical but I do think this is a very helpful book for all Christians. Chris Brauns went to Gordon Conwell Seminary and you can see the influence of Haddon Robinson in his writing, there are powerful illustrations. If you’re of the emotional bent you might find yourself crying on the tube like I did. It’s always a joy to find a book that’s not really been known and hidden away but is a gem and this is such a discovery.

There are 16 Chapters with a couple of excellent Appendixes, it’s worth persevering with. I would have liked a little bit more clarity on the role of church discipline and the Lord’s Table but this is a very helpful work. It made me think there is a possibly to get traction evangelistically in dealing with forgiveness. The Discussion Questions very unusually are good and as a church we will be able to use this resource.


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