How do we forgive?
No one can pass through life without being challenged either to offer or to accept forgiveness. Forgiveness is undoubtedly at the forefront of the teaching and example of Jesus, as well as a crucial component of the Christian life and the identity and mission of the church; indeed, to tell the story of Jesus is to commit to being agents of forgiveness and reconciliation.
But what exactly is forgiveness, and is it always possible? Are there times when it is unwise to forgive or when forgiveness ought to be withheld? And is forgiveness even feasible when the one needing forgiveness refuses to repent? Moreover, is there anything distinctive about Christian forgiveness?
These are some of the questions James K. Voiss takes up in his extensive, superbly researched, balanced, and consistently astute analysis of a practice we may not understand as well as we think. Voiss wants “to look at forgiveness with fresh eyes” and relocate the discussion “in a new landscape.” He summons us to envision God’s forgiveness not primarily as escaping God’s wrath but as the most poignant and extravagant expression of God’s love, a love that relentlessly seeks communion with us no matter how great our manifold failures and persistent refusals might be. As Voiss writes near the end of the book, “Whether in the initial act of creation or in the restoration of right relationship through grace-mediated reconciliation, God is consistently appealing to humankind to embrace the relationship God offers.”