Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review: Forgiving the Unforgivable


"Forgiving the Unforgivable" is a simple little book dealing with a painful and complex problem - forgiving when forgiveness seems impossible. There are a variety of reasons forgiveness may seem out of reach - the offense is so huge, or the offender is out of our lives. But forgiveness remains the only true path toward total healing in our lives.

Stoop spends the early part of the book discussing what might fall into the category of "unforgivable." He then sketches out his understanding of the basics of forgiveness, dealing with both myths and truths of forgiveness. After offering up two false paths people walk down when they are hurt (denial and bitterness), Stoop draws out a map toward forgiveness and healing.

There are no promises of quick healing; sorrow, pain, grief and anger all play a role in true forgiveness. In the end, though, as people learn to place blame appropriately, to identify and own their pain, and to realize that forgiveness never absolves the wrong done, they can release the offender from their lives, let go of the wrong, and move into a new freedom and joy.

Stoop's work is firmly planted in scripture, based on an understanding that our forgiveness of others is possible because God has already forgiven us, and also because we trust in a God who will hold wrongdoers appropriate when necessary. If we struggle with forgiving ourselves, we find hope in the knowledge that Jesus forgave us at the cross; if we struggle with others who have horrifically wronged us, we find solace in the knowledge that God knows our pain, and will deal with them in his time.

There is much to be gleaned from this little book; even those not dealing specifically with 'unforgivable' sins will learn a lot about forgiveness. I was a little disappointed in some of the theological work, especially in what I perceive as Stoop's false comparison of Old Testament forgiveness vs. New Testament forgiveness. In addition, the book's size and tone keep it from going very deep; it's more an introduction to forgiveness than a deep exploration of the topic.

However, all that being said, it's a worthwhile book, and one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to people wondering just how to forgive someone who has deeply wounded them.

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