It’s weird to think that I have been doing posts on Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God for a little over 3 months now. We have a few more chapters to cover in the Bible study and then it will be over. I have definitely enjoyed the book. It has made me think and rethink things about my faith and how it is related to the world. I have not agreed with everything Keller writes about but it has been a great book to read and reevaluate where I stand on a lot of religious issues.
In the opening section of the chapter Keller asks the question of why couldn’t God forgive us, why do we have to include Jesus dying on the cross in Christian religion? He continues with a story in hopes to explain why.
Keller’s example: A person backs a car up and runs over your gate and garden wall. The gate and garden wall are destroyed. Someone will have to cover the costs to fix it. You have a few options. 1.) Demand that the person in the car pays for all damages or 2.) You absorb the costs either by replacing it using your own money or just simply not replacing it. 3.) You split the cost with the person in the car to replace the gate and garden wall.
No matter which way you look at it someone is paying for the gate and garden wall, someone is absorbing the cost. So how does that relate back to Jesus… easy. We all do bad things where we hurt others emotionally, physically, or financially. We can choose to ask for forgiveness but the damage is still there. Someone has to pay for it. Jesus came to pay for our sin. He taught us how to forgive with a grateful heart not with a I’ll get even heart. Keller states that, “Forgiveness means bearing the cost instead of making the wrongdoer do it, so you can reach out in love to seek your enemy’s renewal and change. Forgiveness means absorbing the debt of the sin yourself.”
So why does Jesus dying on the cross matter so much? Why does it have to be included in the Christian faith? Because “There was a debt to be paid—God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born—God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.”
This doesn’t mean that you can not confront the wrongdoer. I think this is something that I have struggled with, I always felt like as a Christian I have to turn the other cheek. Keller states that, “We should confront wrongdoers-to wake them up to their real character, to move them to repair their relationships, or to at least constrain them and protect others from being harmed by them in the future.” We do have to make sure that our motives are the right motives. If in confronting the wrongdoer, we are protecting others or bettering others then it is ok. If our goal for confronting the wrongdoer is to get even, for the wrongdoer to pay for their mistakes then we are causing more evil and hurt to someone. We are not truly forgiving the wrongdoer but holding a grudge. We will never get over it.
Keller says that “Forgiveness must be granted before it can be felt, but it does come eventually. It leads to a new peace, a resurrection. It is the only way to stop the spread of the evil.” If we are ever to move on from the wrong, we have to let go of our anger, we have to forgive. If we hold on to the wrong, then we will never be able to move on, to get past our own pride.