In this little book, we discover that if Christianity isn’t about forgiveness, it’s about nothing at all. But is there a limit to forgiveness? Is it always possible? Or even always right? This book begins with Simon Wiesenthal, an Austrian Jew imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII, who was confronted with the plea for forgiveness from a dying Nazi SS soldier. This book will challenge you with the question: “What would you do?” The Question of Forgiveness reminds us that Christ’s command to love your enemy is very hard to do, but as followers of Christ, we are called to believe that love is more powerful than hate—something that Christ modeled to the extreme of Calvary’s cross. Zahnd digs into the question of forgiveness, and concludes with this: beyond the suffering of unconditional forgiveness lie the resurrection of love and the triumph of peace.
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About the Author
Brian Zahnd is the founder and senior pastor of Word of Life Church, a thriving congregation in St. Joseph, Missouri. He and his wife, Peri, have three sons.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
1. The Question of Forgiveness
Most of us enter the Christian faith at least somewhat motivated, if not primarily motivated, to find forgiveness for our own sins. As we grow in the Christian faith, it is vital we become aware that we are called to be those who extend forgiveness to others, thus making the world a more forgiving place. If we enter the Christian faith to find forgiveness, we must continue in the faith to become forgiving people, because to be an authentic follower of Christ we must embrace the centrality of forgiveness.
2. The Story of Simon Wiesenthal
Simon Wiesenthal has a haunting story to tell, and an even more haunting question to ask. Ought I to have forgiven him? Was my silence at the bedside of the dying Nazi right or wrong? This is a profound moral question that challenges the conscience of the reader of this episode, just as much as it once challenged my heart and mind. The crux of the matter is, of course, the question of forgiveness.
3. Is Forgiveness Always Possible?
And thus we are faced with a dramatic challenge to the possibilities of forgiveness. Is forgiveness always possible? Are there some situations in which forgiveness is impossible?
4. Forgiveness—the Heart of the Christian Gospel
I am fully convinced that to deny the possibility of forgiveness is to deny the very heart of the Christian gospel. The oft-quoted words of Jesus, “with God all things are possible,” not only include forgiveness, but also especially pertain to forgiveness. And the call of Christ to take up our cross and follow him is very specifically a call to love our enemies and end the cycle of revenge by responding with forgiveness.
5. Forgiveness—the Cost of Discipleship
So if we call ourselves disciples of Jesus, what is it we are trying to learn? What is it that Jesus offers to teach us when we heed the call to follow him? What is Jesus the master of, which we seek to learn? The answer is “Life.” Jesus is the master of living well, living rightly, living truly. Jesus is the master of living a human life as God intended. And at the center of Jesus’ teaching on how we should live is the recurring theme of love and forgiveness.
6. Is Grace More Than Just the Name of a Girl?
Grace, it’s a name for a girl; it’s also a thought that changed the world. Yes, it is. It’s why Jesus could call the poor and persecuted…the mournful and meek…blessed. Jesus’ entire life and message was the embodiment of the grace that triumphs over the cold pragmatism of a world where the strong dominate the weak. Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness is not rooted in a naïve optimism, but in the grace that takes the blame, covers the shame, removes the stain, and the endless cycle of revenge.