Miroslav Volf on Forgiveness


Head shots for Miroslav Volf's forthcoming book about faith and globalization.Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion — without transposing the enemy from the sphere of the monstrous… into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows [as the cross demonstrates] that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person’s humanity and imitate God’s love for him. And when one knows [as the cross demonstrates] that God’s love is greater than all sin, one is free to see oneself in the light of God’s justice and so rediscover one’s own sinfulness. – Miroslav Volf

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2 thoughts on “Miroslav Volf on Forgiveness

  1. I’m deeply interested in forgiveness. I agree with Miroslav Volf that it is necessary on the part of the person who has experienced harm to view the person who has done harm as a human in order for the harm-experiencing person to forgive. I feel like that lesson and message is omnipresent in religious settings, and in particular I know that it was in my Mennonite upbringing.
    I find Volf pointing out that those who have experienced harm must remember they are part of the “sphere of common sinfulness” interesting. It has been my experience that those who have experienced harm are equally (or maybe more) likely to blame themselves – to see themselves as bearing responsibility for their and the harm doers sin – than they are likely to take a posture of elevated innocence. It is often necessary to remind them of the opposite – that though they are sinners and imperfect, that does not give someone the right to cause them harm, that they should take some of the blame for the harm off of themselves, and that it is ok to ask for acknowledgment of harm, repentance, and amends. That it is ok not to grant an immediate cheap forgiveness that comes with none of those things, no repairing of community.
    And perhaps our duty as community members is to assist the harm-experiencing person and the harm doer (and sometimes, both people are both!) to walk on the path of acknowledgment of harm, repentance, amends, and forgiveness.
    Additionally, I think we often neglect to focus on the harm-doing person. Should we not also say “We who have done harm, must think of ourselves as part of the sphere of common sinfulness. When we acknowledge that we have sinned and caused harm to a community member, it is right to repent of our sinfulness and ask forgiveness from the one we caused harm to as well as from God, and to offer to make amends for the harm that was caused, so that we might reach a true and full forgiveness that involves repairing of community.”

    • Good words, Jennifer. I think, if you have not read it already, Free of Charge would be a good book to help flesh out more of what you have here. I think, IIRC, Volf is right along side of you with these thoughts…but doses it liberally with grace and with an aim at restoring right relationship, not simply “giving a pass”

      Thanks for your thoughts

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