A couple of months ago, an incident occurred that was outside my control. A relationship which began rather quickly disintegrated like snow melts in warm weather. I was told it was not anything I had done. Yet, there I stood in a place I had not expected. A rush of emotions were present. In that moment I had a decision to make: Would I allow this incident to harden my heart and give myself over to bitterness? Or would I realize, as a Christian, I have been forgiven by God and have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to extend forgiveness? In Stanley D. Gale’s new book Finding Forgiveness: Discovering the Healing Power of the Gospel, he would counsel to choose the latter.
First published as a booklet Why Must We Forgive? Stanley Gale expands his biblical teaching on forgiveness. In Finding Forgiveness, Gale sets out to cover various questions on forgiveness. In chapter 1, he begins with considering why we should forgive in the first place. He lays the foundation of forgiveness by pointing the reader to the gospel. In the gospel, God forgives us by dealing with our sins in the atonement of Jesus Christ. With the foundation of the gospel laid, Stanley moves to chapter 2, showing how in the gospel God in Christ has forgiven us and what that means for each of our lives. In other words, as chapter 1 reveals the foundation to be the gospel, chapter 2 realizes one implication of the gospel is to forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven us. Using the parable in Matthew 18:23–33, forgiveness is looked at in terms of kingdom currency. Chapter 3, then, examines what the practice of forgiveness looks like with and toward others. Taking into account that we still live in a fallen and sinful world, chapter 4 paints a picture of authentic forgiveness. The author wisely admits here forgiveness applied to real-life circumstances will not always be neat and tidy but often will be more complex than theory. Chapter 5 closes out the book by tackling the question, “What about forgiving ourselves?”, informing the reader the Bible never speaks of forgiving ourselves (Gale 94).
This work by Stanley Gale is a gospel-centered, biblically-clarifying, and God-focused treatise on forgiveness. Throughout the book, the doctrine of justification is mentioned, both in its connection with forgiveness and in its distinction from it. In the later sections of the book, Stanley Gale corrects and clarifies commonly used Christian phrases by examining them in light of God’s Word. What he finds is to “forgive and forget” (chapter 3) and to “forgive ourselves” (chapter 5) are not biblical concepts or notions. Rather, he takes a God-centered approach, sharing we forgive and do not forget (the cross) and “the answer is not in finding a way to forgive ourselves, but in finding the way, the truth, and the life” (Gale 110).
Much can be commended in a book answering questions on forgiveness, but this work does create a few questions of its own. The most glaring inquiry comes when Mr. Gale says, “Forgiveness is not the goal; it is a step toward the goal” (Gale 65). The question this poses is: If forgiveness is not the goal, then why not spend more time in this book connecting it to the goal of reconciliation and restoration? I realize the purpose of the book was not to be exhaustive but the reader could have benefited from a greater focus on the ultimate goal forgiveness serves.
All things considered, Finding Forgiveness is a book which not only teaches you what forgiveness is but also challenges you to actually live it out. After my fresh experience from a couple of months ago, I can say, by God’s grace, I chose, found, and extended forgiveness. If you read Stanley Gale’s book, you will find yourself better equipped and prepared to forgive the next time you face a circumstance like mine.
I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.