What is a gift? What does it mean to be a giver? How can giving be more than a business transaction? How ought we to forgive? Does repentence need to precede forgiveness? How can we forgive? Is it possible to be a little bit like God in our giving and forgiving?
Crotian theologian Miroslav Volf (author of the highly stimulating Exclusion and Embrace) wrote a popular level book for Lent 2006 called Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace. Jessica and I have been reading it slowly over the last couple of weeks and have really appeciated the straightforward ways he lays out the connections and distinctions between giving and forgiving with both theological depth and a light and accessible touch. These two basic modes of interpersonal interaction are at the heart of what it is to be Christian because they are very much on God's heart. Whether or not you're a believer, this book will gently stretch you and invite you into a way of life and of the heart that gets beyond the destructiveness of revenge and taking, even beyond mere justice and earning, all the way into giving and forgiving.
Revenge multiples evil. Retributive justice contains evil - and threatens the world with destruction. Forgiveness overcomes evil with good. Forgiveness mirrors the generosity of God whose ultimate goal is neither to satisfy injured pride nor to justly apportion reward and punishment, but to free sinful humanity from evil and thereby reestablish communion with us. This is the gospel in its stark simplicity - as radically countercultural and at the same time as beautifully human as anything one can imagine.
- Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge, 161. More on this book.