Adam Hamilton. Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2012. 160 pp. $12.42.
It is impossible to walk through this life without hurting someone or being hurt by someone. God, of course, knows this fact, which explains why he chose to teach us in his word about forgiveness. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas and author of several books, has taken a stab at the important topic of helping Christians understand forgiveness in simple terms in his book appropriately titled Forgiveness.
Hamilton’s work is sweet, simple, and full of application. He illustrates often, depicting carrying the burden of anger like a backpack full of stones. Nothing in this work is too complex for believers to easily grasp and immediately apply.
One example of the helpful counsel the author offers is in the acronym R.A.P. Whenever we find ourselves offended by something that another person does that is not really significant, Hamilton suggest we (R) remember that we have probably done something similar in our own lives, (A) assume the best about the person who offended us, and (P) pray for the person who has offended us. IF we will practice this simple plan, we will find it much easier to let go of simple annoyances before they become big problems.
Hamilton also does a fine job with his explanation of the concept of repentance. The author grasps that repentance is more than mere change. Instead, he presents the truly biblical understanding of repentance as a change of mind which leads to sorrow and a change of action.
I found that the book may have relied a bit more heavily on psychological theory than I would have preferred. An example of this comes in the premise that we forgive in order to free ourselves of burdens, regardless of the actions of others. The author does not back this teaching with a solidly biblical foundation, thus leaving it open to question whether this principle is truly in Scripture or merely in modern therapy. Understand that I’m not arguing that the author is wrong here (it is often experientially true that we feel a release when we forgive and there is also an appropriate way in which we let go of our anger against others before God that is clearly biblical), but simply that I would have liked a more Scripture-driven approach rather than an approach founded in psychology. Since the need to forgive has been present since Adam and Eve, the authors of Scripture and the God who inspired it obviously knew the topic well. Why, then, can we not find letting go for one’s own emotional release as a Scriptural motivation for forgiveness? This leaves me wondering if there is not something missing.
Similarly, the author points out that it is often important to confront those who have sinned against us. However, he does not share with us much about when we can then complete the transaction of forgiveness. I would have liked to find more in this work about the hard question of what to do when a person sins against another and yet refuses to acknowledge it or repent.
Hamilton’s work is a nice, short, and easy read on a topic that is of great importance to Christians. In many ways, the book is helpful. Obviously, a book of this size will not be able to cover every contingency and will not be an exhaustive theological look at the topic. For those looking for a quick peek at the topic of forgiveness, this book has points to recommend it. However, in general I would send readers elsewhere if they really want to dig into the topic. Specifically, I would recommend Chris Brauns, Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008).
As part of their reviewers program, I received a free audio version of this book from ChristianAudio.com in exchange for an honest review. The audio quality of this work, like all the products from this company, was quite solid.