Thursday, November 15, 2007

What is forgiveness? III

(iii) Not tolerating, but acquitting
Forgiveness is not simply “she’ll be right”, or “don’t worry about it”. When I forgive, I do not grit my teeth and bear with what’s going on. I confront, I accuse, but I can do so without destroying the relationship because I also acquit. I refuse to press charges. I refuse to hold a grudge. I do not pay the other back for the wrong done to me. I release the other from any punishment I might be tempted to inflict. And more than that, I release the other from even the guilt of the offence. I swallow the cost of the wrong. I keep no record of wrongs.

According to Miroslav Volf, when we do this, we are echoing God's forgiveness. In effect, I are saying to the one who hurt me:

“Because God in Christ doesn’t count your trespasses against you and because God has removed your guilt from you, I too don’t count against you the fact that you’ve wronged me, and I don’t consider you guilty. God has made you innocent, and therefore I consider you innocent.”

- Volf, Free of Charge:
Giving and forgiving in a culture stripped of grace
(Zondervan, 2005), 196.

In fact, it is this gift, this release from guilt and punishment, that opens the possibilities of constructive confrontation and accusation. Because the charges will not be pursued, and the guilt has been dropped by God and so by me, I am able (and am indeed obligated) to seek good in the relationship through bringing the issue into the open (H/T Jason for pointing this out).

Of course, trust may need to slowly re-grow; the relationship doesn’t magically revert to how things were. But I give a fresh start, without keeping a black mark against their name.

Whom do you need to acquit, rather than merely tolerate?
Fifteen points for naming the Sydney CBD building.
Series: I; II; III; IV; V.


Jonathan said...

This post is easy to agree with, but much harder to put into practice.

Which building do you mean?

byron smith said...

The one doing the reflecting. Sorry - should have been clearer.

byron smith said...

And as for being difficult - the sermon was called "How can we forgive?" and followed two earlier sermons: "God the forgiver" and "How should we forgive?". All cheerfully ripped off from the Volf book.

Anonymous said...

Byron, again my problem here is with the incongruity between the 'but then' in your first paragraph and the statement by Volf. Again, I like what you're trying to say, but by phrasing the process of forgiveness as you have you seem to be making our forgiveness dependent upon one first needing to confront and accuse. Again, if and when one confronts one does so after the forgiveness is a reality. As Volf writes: 'Because God in Christ doesn't ... I too don't ...'. I haven't phrased this well but I think you get my point.

byron smith said...

Thanks for continuing to pick me on this Jason. It's crucial, isn't it? I'll make some changes.

Andrew Paterson said...

Re the building - it's the one at Circular Quay - I think the Axa building?? I have a friend who works in there.

Of course, if wrong I trust you will acquit me forthwith...

Martin Kemp said...

The one in the reflection is the taller AMP building.
Any points there?