Tag Archives: Forgiveness

Quick Review: Unoffendable

On our family drive to Colorado recently I read Brant Hansen’s Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better.  

I was drawn to read it because the summary fits the general realm of self-differentiation that I enjoy looking at, but also because it had potential relevance to some of the shame and conflict research I’ve been working on this past year.

This turned out to be a more “popular Christian” book than I expected, but it wasn’t all bad in that regard as there were some unexpected nuggets in parts of the book that did not fit my expectations. The book is written by a guy who works in Christian radio. That fact might have scared me off before I read the book, but turned out to add some fascinating insights.

The premise is clear – giving up the right to be angry makes all the difference in relationships, leadership, ministry, and all of life. The author unpacks how a lot of people spiritualize anger, especially toxic anger under the vernacular as “righteous anger.” This was the most important part of the book – a prophetic word to angry Christians about how their anger is not righteous, but self-serving.

I expected most of the book to relate to conflict, but there was helpful exploration of how anger and “offendability” impacts evangelism and many other things, including a good discussion about dying to anger as it relates to forgiveness.

An interesting discussion is to compare/contrast this book with Bill Hybel’s Holy Discontent, which speaks to some measure of righteous anger as a fuel for passion.  Hanson argues pretty clearly that anger has no place in motivation for justice because our motivation is love.  Jeff VanVonderan in Families Where Grace is in Place (which I am reading now) has a really helpful chapter where he unpacks a discussion on anger which echoes some of Hanson’s arguments but frames a more robust argument around the original Greek language used for “anger.” There are different words and concepts.  VanVonderan offers the most satisfying explanation of the verse “Be angry, but do not sin….”  Hanson though includes great insight that justice work need not be driven by anger and how research shows the most outraged and offended are often those who do least to be part of the solution.

I had not thought much of what it would be like to work in Christian radio because I don’t listen to Christian radio. But what a sad and sobering picture to hear what kind of stuff Christian radio folk personnel have to deal with. It’s not shocking actually, but what a mirror to the heart conditions of many Christians – the legalistic, the spiritualizers, and especially the Christian watchdogs that feel like it’s their responsibility to correct or judge every person or action they disapprove of or disagree with (including matters of doctrine).

I’ve found many popular Christian books cover the same ground – not judging, forgiving, building relationships, grace, general gospel overview, and more.  They also just tend to use a different lens to share a vision of what life with Christ can or should be.  The particular lens in this issue is the idea of “unoffendability” and dying to anger in all its forms.

To summarize – I like the concept of “unoffendability” and appreciated some of the more prophetic challenges this book includes even though I may quibble with some of the arguments or statements at points.  But – I like the lens of unoffendability because it’s true that offendability, outrage, and anger are to be the exact opposite of what the church is known for, yet it’s another area where the church seems to often look exactly like the world.

 

 

Quick Review: How to Have That Difficult Conversation

Over the last few days I had a chance to read Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s How to Have That Difficult Conversation: Gaining the Skills for Honest and Meaningful Communication.  This book formerly used to be called Boundaries: Face to Face but adjusted some things for a more practical application and marketing effort. And it’s a good move because this book is really about how to plan and prepare and execute plans in difficult conversations.

I have had this book for a while and wish I’d gone through it a long time ago. I found it very helpful.  The focus on it isn’t as much conflict resolution and reconciliation, but more on how to be an adult and have grown up conversations.

There’s immense practical value in this book and I’m thinking about adding it to the interpersonal relationships class I teach as a supplement to the other resources and books I use that deal with the heart and theology of relationships.

The book has some great sections related to dealing with your own self first, making a plan to have a conversation, helpful ways to talk through difficult issues, and how to be prepared for immature or other difficult responses to speaking the truth in love. It provides a lot of “how to’s” that are needed because most people are paralyzed in these situations – part because of heart issues and part because of being overwhelmed by the lack of knowledge and ability.  This book addresses the former in part but does a good job on the latter.

The examples are sometimes very clinical in nature or extreme, but they illustrate the principles well. One of the issues that is not addressed very clearly is the role of culture and context as most of the examples and contexts are Western and “white” for lack of a better word.  But it doesn’t mean the principles don’t apply, but they may be harder for people of a non-white, western context to take in and envision for their lives.  But I believe much of what is in the book is just as needed for the majority world and non-white communities and cultures.

The audio book is also good and pretty affordable, but it’s somewhat abridged.  The e-book has additional examples and Scripture foundations throughout the book while the audio book is more focused on the core content.  The e-book includes several appendix chapters that focus on specific relationships:  marriage, dating, kids, parents, and work.  These sections are like abridged versions of some of their other books like boundaries in marriage, boundaries in dating, boundaries, and others. But it’s a great compilation of insight and wisdom in these different relationships.

This is a needed resource for many, if not all of us and I recommend it.  I’m reading through books in the similar genre related to conflict management and this has offered some of the best practical advice on all the emotional/developmental/adulthood dynamics that make or break whether a good conversation can take place where reconciliation is experienced and healthy relationships are built.

 

Quick Review: Forgiving As We’ve Been Forgiven

This summer I had a chance to read Forgiving as We’ve Been Forgiven: Community Practices for Making Peace by L. Gregory Jones and Celestin Musekura.  The book is written where each author trades off chapters and complement each other’s perspective.  Musekura is from Rwanda and had countless friends and relatives murdered in the Rwandan genocide. Jones has been part of the Duke Divinity School faculty and the school of reconciliation they have developed there.

The stories that both Jones and Musekura bring in addition to their theological and Biblical reflection are powerful together as a collective narrative. There is a helpful section on how reconciliation involves needing new hearts, renewed minds, and healing from unjust actions.

There is also an excellent chapter on forgiveness and memory – how the fallacy of forgiveness as “forgetting” needs to be replaced by a more Biblical and Christ-focused paradigm of forgiveness in community. This echoed some of the work of Miroslav Volf on memory, but it is captured in a pretty succinct form.

This is a book that can be read in about 3 hours so it’s manageable and well worth the investment to be challenged to think about forgiveness through the communal lens as opposed to the therapeutic models of today or the purely individualistic models of forgiveness that people function out of.  The authors offer a vision of how practices of forgiveness are crucial to community building and creating healthy and strong futures – not just dealing with past wrongs.

Here is their rough outline for an approach to community reconciliation.  They include Scripture references and connections to Christ’s work, but I’m just giving you the headlines of the categories they offer.

TRUTH TELLING

Step 1: We become willing to speak truthfully and patiently about the conflicts that have arisen.

Step 2: We acknowledge both the existence of anger and bitterness, and a desire to overcome them.

Step 3: We summon up a concern for the well-being of the other as a child of God.

Step 4: We recognize our own complicity in conflict, remember that we have been forgiven in the past and take the step of repentance.

Step 5: We make a commitment to struggle to change whatever caused and continues to perpetuate our conflicts. Forgiveness does not merely refer backwards to the absolution of guilt; it also looks forward to the restoration of community.

Step 6: We confess our yearning for the possibility of reconciliation.

If you’ve read a lot of Volf or other writings on reconciliation and community oriented forgiveness this may not give you much new content outside of the narratives from Rwanda and other contexts the authors draw from in their writing, but the stories are really are what makes the theology and methodology come alive in powerful ways.  This was of great personal value to me so I recommend it, especially if you are wrestling with unforgiveness or difficult relationships.

 

Quick Review: Resolving Everyday Conflict

Sande and Johnson’s Resolving Everyday Conflict is essentially an abridged version of Sande’s more well known The Peacemaker.  It’s a great summary of Sande’s approach to resolving conflict and it’s very manageable and framed in a very accessible and smooth way.

I did this book via audio book despite already having the e-book. It took me less than 3 hours to listen to it so it wasn’t long at all.  I covered all of Resolving Everday Conflict to and from a hospital visit to a friend (Manila traffic!)

It includes chapters on Sande’s “4 G’s” as well as the “7 A’s of Confession/Apologies.” If you don’t know what those are – get one of these books or google summaries of the Peacemaker and you can probably find a good summary out there. I have no doubt there are fantastic summaries online out there for free.

This would be a great and manageable resource to do conflict resolution training because it’s concise and clear and easy to go through. The ebook version is only 2 –  3 $ less than the full version of The Peacemaker which goes into a lot of the content on a much deeper level so if you had to pick one book I’d suggest The Peacemaker, but if you know you only can manageable a smaller dose of content that covers the essence – this is a great option.

If you have not read either, I highly recommend going through it. It’s great content on conflict resolution, forgiveness, and essentially the gospel as well since that is the foundation of Christian reconciliation.

 

Quick Review: Miroslav Volf’s Free of Charge

I recently read Miroslav Volf’s Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace and wanted to post a few thoughts as I found it a really rich book on several levels.

The book is dividing into two sections.  As the title suggests – the first half focuses on giving and the second half focuses on forgiveness.  I would say first of all – the first 3 chapters as a theology of giving is one of the best and maybe the best Scriptural and theological grounding of giving that I’ve come across.

The dynamics of giving, receiving, taking, and exchanging are covered in this section in a way that explores giving through the overall Biblical narrative.  So Volf grounds giving and receiving in the doctrine of creation and the image of God. He also explores the depth of how sin and the fall corrupts loving giving and receiving in ways that provide a strong critique of the many ways we manipulate each other in community and even seek dominance as one community over an other.

The forgiveness section is also very well done and is framed on top of Volf’s work in the 1st half of the book on giving.  I had not thought about forgiveness through this lens before, but I found it powerful for reflection and thought.  Understanding the giving and receiving dynamics and sides of forgiveness are crucial to developing an ethical practice of peace and reconciliation and restoration.

Volf’s personal background and history as one who has experienced great loss and has had to struggle through these themes at the deepest of levels brings credibility and power to the reading.  This is a book I’ll keep coming back to in the future both personally and for teaching.  The kindle version is only $5 too 🙂

 

 

Quick Review: Jesus, The Middle Eastern Storyteller

I recently finished another book in Gary Burge’s Ancient Context, Ancient Faith series.  This one was called Jesus, The Middle Eastern Storyteller with the focus being many of the parables that Jesus taught in the gospels.

I really have enjoyed this series because of the cultural insight into the ancient near east and the time of Jesus.  This edition of the series added helpful insight to the ways in which Jesus captivated people through stories.  The book is grouped into topical storytelling themes that illustrate some of how Jesus tried to convey powerful teaching into contextualized stories.

The chapters focus on the banquet and excuses, hospitality and honor related to prayer (Luke 11), compassion, forgiveness, materialism and inheritance, the lost and general storytelling in the culture.

My favorite chapters related to prayer (Luke 11), excuses and the Kingdom of God (Luke 14), and forgiveness (Matthew 18).  All three of these chapters brought such great cultural insight into the text that provided a deeper and more robust interpretation and reading that have stayed with me over the past week since reading them and will shape my spiritual formation and understanding of these areas of faith.  I had not read Luke 14 with the honor and shame categories before and applied to the literary context of prayer.  It really has built my confidence in prayer.

If you want to go deeper into some of the parables from a cultural and literary standpoint, it’s worth checking it out.  I’m really enjoying the series.

 

New Review – Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

I just finished reading Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp’s Relationships: A Mess Worth Making.  I got this for free on Amazon last year and thought I’d read it to see if I wanted to use it in a class I’m teaching on interpersonal relationships.  I took a look at several books and this one won out for my purposes so I’ll be using this as a resource and as a text in the near future.

There’s a couple things I was looking for.  First, I wanted a resource that covered the fundamental areas involved in relationships.  I wanted content on forgiveness, communicating value, identity, serving, conflict, anxiety, and a host of other things.  This book addressed most every area I wanted and did so really well.

Secondly, I wanted something that would elevate an average person’s theology and ability to understand how all of those things listed above only make since in a larger theological framework and foundation with Christ and the Scriptures at the center. Not only does this book provide a “Biblical basis” for their writing (which is important but not sufficient to me), they also inform and elevate people’s theology in the process of discussing these things from Scripture.  Someone will walk away from reading the book not just with the biblically “right” perspectives, but more importantly they will walk away more theologically sound so they can understand how their everyday tiny actions in community connect to a larger theology that is bringing glory to God through everything.  This is important – to help people become theological thinkers in the context of everyday relationships. The book does an excellent job here.

Third, I also look at books with a view towards how it would apply cross culturally.  Not only do I have experience in ethnic minority contexts in the U.S., but I’m not teaching in an international contexts amidst students from over 20 countries all over Asia.  It’s important that texts be able to have the same impact in different contexts.  The book does not address cross-cultural relationships specifically – but there is great content on general diversity and difference.  However, while there is no explicit cross-cultural content I think the content is written in a way where the typical cultural barriers that show up when books get used in different contexts are not really an issue.  The content is taught in a way that I believe would allow everyone to really be impacted similarly, leaving room for each person to contextualize the truths and content to their situation.

It still has a North American flavor, but it’s not full of stumbling blocks and barriers to other perspectives.  I think they could have included some additional content on shame, cross-cultural communication, and culture in general.  However. I think most readers from other contexts can easily contextualize to their situations which is better than most books in this genre typically allow for.

I highly recommend this as a foundational resource for development in relationships.  If you run training programs in a ministry or church – this is what I would propose as a book to help create a healthy and theological foundations for your people.