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Monday, November 26, 2007
Tuesday Book DIscussion: The End of Memory week 4
On page 110, Volf states based the human tendency to commit injustice, we have two unacceptable options:

"We can simpy disregard justice (as Nietzche did) and abandon the world to the interplay of forces, thus plunging the unprotected weak into suffering; or we can insist on the relentless pursuit of justice and end up with a "rectified" world-in-ruins, a world completely torn apart by the unsparing hands of retributive justice."

The third option (drum roll for this big shocker, please) is forgiveness. Volf writes,

"In the memory of the Passion we honor victims even while extending grace to perpetrators. shouldering the wrongdoing done to sufferers, God identifies it truthfully and condemns it justly."

Although Volf argues for an ultimate healing where offenses no longer comes to mind because love has entirely suffused and reconciled the human community with one another in and with God, he is careful to point out that "one should never demand of the those who have suffered wrong that they "forget" and move on....Any forgetting other than that which grows out of a healed relationship between the wrongdoer and the wronged in a transformed social environment should be mistrusted."

Clearly this works for catastrophic and clear cut wrongs, but what about the smaller offenses where perceptions plays a huge role not only in memory but in interpretation?

I've thought of this idea recently and wondered, since God *could* forgive without the cross, because God is God, if part of the atonement is to both honor the victim by validating the inexcusability of the wrongdoing, while offering grace to the one who does wrong. And in situations where memories differ and it's a game of he said, she said, then if God in Jesus died for ALL sin, God covers whoever *deserved* (from our human standpoint) punishment, and we all are called to show grace to ourselves and one another, even when we disagree about who was wrong, who was more wrong etc.

1. Is there a sense in which, in God you can either be right or your can be happy (because God in Christ has made all things right)?

2. What criteria do you use to decide what truths/memories are worth fighting for and what can be let go and healed by a general appropriation of the Passion with its grace and its humbling effect on all people?

On page 171 Volf analyzes Kierkegaard's depiction of three women abandoned by their lovers, who act as forgiving as a good Christian possibly could, yet remain largely unhealed and despairing. The women are un-liberated by their forgiving actions because "the bond between the lover and the beloved is 'an alliance of self-love that shuts God out.' As a result of this selfish idolatry, the self of each woman is left unprotected and subject to the mercy of her fickle lover."

3. In what situations have you deluded yourself into thinking you were selflessly loving another but in actuality you were putting a human love ahead of keeping your ultimate identity in God, to your own detriment?

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posted by Jemila Kwon at 7:34 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 11/27/2007 07:33:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    I haven't read the whole book, so I wonder how Volf integrates forgiveness and restoration? Does he address healing of those who commit injustice?

    Anyway to answer question 3 - As a mom it is very easy to be consumed with a love for my child which is actually about my desires for her. Its hard to focus on God when everyday caring consumes so much time.

  • At 11/27/2007 08:40:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    Volf sees forgiveness as universally offered by God (and selectively accepted,) and that we are called to imitate God. Yet for Volf, reconciliation requires remembering truthfully, repentance and where possible restitution. He sees the Passion as returning the wrongdoer to himself by loving and accepting him, his sins notwithstanding, and providing a way forward for both wronged and wrongdoer. Volf emphasizes a community of reconciliation and sees restoration of relationships as the ultimate and necessary final piece of healing for the victim. At least as I understand Volf, I think it's putting alot of power in the hands of a potentially unrepentant perpetrator to see healing as dependent on the wrongdoer, although in some sense there may be truth there.

  • At 11/27/2007 09:26:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    Julie, I'm right there with you on the vast amount of energy that goes straight into daily watering and maintaining of growing, blossoming young children. Sometimes kid''s needs surpass their parents' resources, and in these times I have found I either turn away from my child and God, toward my child but put God on hold, or cry out to God in utter dependency because what is called for calls for more than what I've got physically, emotionally or spiritually.

    I think I have tended to cry out to God alot in the parenting area lately because it's been a matter of survival.

    I am more prone to get confused/codependent in my intimate relationship. I know it is not my kid's role to meet my needs, but sometimes I feel like my partner *should* rescue me/meet my needs/make me whole etc, and this is always a pitfall. I have found that it is when I am truly able to depend on God/myself/God-in-me, I am able to have a much happier life and usually a more fulfilling, intimate relationship with my partner in life. It's the whole "I love you because I need you" versus "I need you because I love you" thing.

  • At 11/27/2007 11:36:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    I have really struggled with Volf's understand of healing. Primarily because, in this book, he's talking to the one who has been wronged. I tend to focus on my own hurt and have difficulty releasing it until that person has jumped through the hoops I deem necessary. His focus is certainly different and challenges me. It also reminds me that I can't control the actions or reactions of others, just my own.

    I can't say that I have a criteria for how I handle memories. My initial reaction is to fight to the end on almost anything. It's only after giving myself space and really opening myself up to God that this changes. It's in that process that I am also able to remember my contribution to the situation.

  • At 11/27/2007 11:44:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    In regard to question 3, there are so many ways that I do this. With children, husband, extended family and general projects and responsibilities, I'll put those things above God. The day-to-day of "doing" becomes consuming and I loose perspective.

    I really liked the part where Volf talks about finding our identity in the Exodus and Passion stories. I find that when I allow myself to be in that spot, other areas natural fall where they should.

  • At 11/28/2007 07:50:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    Here's a question for everyone: on a practical level, what ways of thinking of wrongs is most healing for you? Where have you found freedom?

  • At 11/28/2007 08:25:00 AM, Blogger Nancy

    What has helped me is UNDERSTANDING. I have a very recent living experience with this process of reconciliation as Volf describes it. Rememebering with the other, offering repentance and trying to set it right all led to increased understanding of the situation from their perspective as well as my own. It is a process more than a one-step operation and in my particular instance this took months and maybe we are still working some of it through. It has led me to have to deal with many emotions as I peeled through the layers but ultimately, I was able to see the situation more clearly and by bringing understanding into it, let compassion for myself and the other soften the bitterness and release the energy spent on feeling and thinking about how "wronged" I was and to let down the defenses that can spring up around such wounds and keep one from living more fully.

    Sadly, not everyone is able to arrange for such an opportunity as this or even if they are, that it goes as "smoothly" (many people will refuse to repent)...I have been so grateful to God. If I told you all the circumstances, you would not believe it. I love it when God makes God's self so obvious, when the response to prayer is so swift and beyond anything we could have arranged for ourselves. Finally, it just impressed upon me how very much God desires reconciliation...bewteen us and God but also between God's people. Restoration through reconciliation...a beautiful thing.


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