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Free of Charge, 
Arthor: Miroslav Volf
Publisher: Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, 2005, 
$12.99 pb.

Dr. Miroslav Volf is the Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture and Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School. He is a native of Croatia and a member of the Episcopal Church. Dr. Volf’s new book, _Free of Charge_, with foreword and acknowledgement by Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, is also The Archbishop’s Official 2006 Lent Book. The theme of this book is giving and forgiving, which is free of charge from Jesus, and supposed to be from us, too. There are many examples in the book of raw acts of brutality during wartime in which the person afflicted forgave the perpetrator. Then, again, there are times when forgiveness will never come.

A case of accidental death that affected the author’s family concerns the death of a younger brother in Croatia when an aunt let the child out of her sight. The boy went to a nearby military camp and was befriended by a soldier who let him ride on a horse-drawn cart. There was a terrible accident and the child died. The author’s father went out of his way to forgive the soldier and the aunt, saying, “The Word of God tells us to forgive as God in Christ has forgiven us, and so we decided to forgive.” Another example given of forgiveness is Pope John Paul, who was shot by Mohammed Agca, and visited Agca in prison, forgiving him for the attempted assassination.

However, an example of not forgiving, but purposely and deliberately remembering every detail, concerns a Muslim woman from Bosnia who tells the story of how her students brutally turned against her. When her second son was born, she gave the child the name of “Jihad” so he would not forget his mother’s legacy---revenge.

Free of Charge begins with an examination of just who is God? There is God the Negotiator, God the Creator, God the Redeemer, and then Martin Luther’s God. Luther in the final thesis of the Heidelberg Disputation said, “The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.”  Then, how should a person give?  Can a person ever give fully, or is there always something left behind so that forgiveness is after all, only half a measure. 

It is stated that God is the forgiver for us and that he forgives fully. Can we be perfect in following that example? When we forgive a wrong, is it because we truly want to forgive or is it because we are afraid of God’s wrath? Dr. Volf delves into these statements with Biblical and life experiences. 

There are sections on giving thanks for gratitude’s and gifts received. Does a simple “thank you” suffice?  Perhaps, when dining with a friend and they pick up the tab, but what if your life has been given back to you, how can you formulate that “thank you,” which encompasses your very existence?   

On the other hand, when we have wronged and ask for forgiveness, we would hope to be relieved of a guilt burden and hope everything is permanently forgotten. The shoe is on the other foot. Man is not perfect and does not lead a perfect life, therefore, asking for God’s forgiveness can be a lifelong thing, but Volf goes back to Luther in that “…when Christ indwells us, we are freed from the power of sin and the life we live is God’s life in us.”  We receive forgiveness by receiving Christ.

Forgiving is like looking at a coin. There are two sides to it, we can forgive a wrong but then we may have wronged someone and want forgiveness ourselves. The way we handle one situation may affect the way the other is done. Because man isn’t perfect, there are reasons for forgiving, ranging from truly wanting to forgive to doing it in hopes of a gain. The individual has to thoroughly and earnestly look at the situation for a realistic evaluation of forgiving. A book like “Free of Charge,” may be of help in resolving a conflict or finding the words to say “thank you” in a difficult situation. It is full of life examples and written in every day, easily understood language. 

Copyright 2006 Marie Asner
Submitted 4/27/06


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