Forgiveness: Very Simple - Extremely Difficult
C. S. Lewis is right, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” On one level, it is very simple, at least in theory. “Forgive as you have been forgiven,” Jesus says. But it is difficult to do. Most people are not good at it, which explains why Jesus teaches so much on the subject. There are lots of questions that just make it harder:
- What about justice?
- What if I can’t forget?
- What if the person who offended me doesn’t acknowledge their sin?
- What happens if I don’t forgive?
- What if I don’t want to forgive?
- What if the person I offended is overly-sensitive?
At the bottom of this page, you’ll find 6 episodes where we listen to the Bible, primarily Jesus himself, teach on forgiveness. As with all discipleship, the goal is to learn from Jesus and do what he says.
Books on Forgiveness
Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve, Lewis Smedes
A classic Christian book on forgiveness. The title of the book is not very helpful but the book is full of practical and biblical help on the forgiveness process. Very Christian.
Forgiveness is a Choice: A Step by Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope, Robert D. Enright
This is very accessible but it has some limits. Enright is the forgiveness guru in our culture at large right now. It is kind of “self-helpish” but the practical steps he suggests are usually very good. “Spiritual” but not explicitly Christian.
Bold Love, Dan Allender and Tremper Longman
This whole book is good but chapters 7-9 are worth reading on forgiveness.
The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, Ken Sande
A very helpful book on the total subject of conflict resolution in all relationships. This book is biblical, accessible and practical. Ken is the founder of Peacemaker Ministries, a Christian approach to resolving conflict. Very Christian.
Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis, L. Gregory Jones
This book is kind of heavy for most people but it is an excellent treatment of forgiveness. Jones is a gifted theologian. Very Christian.
Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, Miroslav Volf
A very thoughtful book, not quite as difficult as Jones’. Like Jones, he deals with the hard and messy questions forgiveness raises. Very Christian.
The Art of Forgiving: When You Need to Forgive and Don’t Know How, Lewis Smedes
A great book for understanding what forgiveness is and then getting down to the nitty-gritty of how to do forgiveness.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
A “children’s story,” but for all ages. This book gives us a deep understanding of both divine and human forgiveness.
Movies on Forgiveness
- The Straight Story (G) A story of two brothers who haven’t talked in years.
- The End of the Spear (PG) Story of missionaries killed and how their families forgave.
- To End All Wars (R for violence) WWII POW story with huge Christian implications.
- The Hiding Place (PG) Story of Corrie ten Boom and forgiving the NAZIs.
- The Count of Monte Cristo (PG13) Story of revenge and what it does.
- Amadeus (PG) The story of Mozart and the resentment of another that killed him.
- Les Miserables (1998 version, PG13) A beautiful story of forgiveness triumph over judgement.
- God Wants Me to Forgive Them!?! (G) Veggie Tales
- Mr. Holland’s Opus (PG) Great story with forgiveness in the father/son relationship.
- Changing Lanes (R) Story of how anger kills the person who holds on to it.
- An Ideal Husband (PG13) Romantic comedy, great story that includes forgiveness.
- Crazy Heart (R) Hard story of addiction and forgiveness.
Questions to ask of each movie:
- Who was the person who was wronged and who did the wrong?
- Describe the forgiveness process in the movie. Was it easy or hard? Did it happen all at once?
- What made forgiveness hard and messy?
- What was the benefit of forgiveness (or cost of not forgiving)?