This book comprises five chapters. The first two focus on the forgiveness of God, the second two on our forgiveness of others, and chapter five deals with the misnomer of forgiving ourselves.
Although it is an expansion of Gale’s previous booklet, Why must we forgive?, he admits that the present work is not an exhaustive study of the subject. It should be pointed out that this book covers the same ground as From forgiven to forgiving, by Jay Adams, published in 1994.
The tone is contemporary and the style readable, but with these come cultural illustrations which may puzzle a British reader. I have no idea what a ‘Tootsie Roll Pop’ or a ‘gunnysack’ are!
Gale is clear and helpful in his definition of forgiveness. I appreciate his description of forgiveness, the heart of the apostolic gospel, as being the jewel set in the doctrine of justification. These days, I feel that the message of forgiveness has been buried under the strong emphasis on justification.
On the debated issue of whether repentance is a prerequisite for our granting forgiveness to those who offend us, the author is not so clear. He suggests that an expression of repentance is desirable. But, because we may not always be able to discern true repentance, forgiveness must be granted in any case. He points out that forgiveness must be seen as a first step in the restoring of good relationships, and that there are further steps to be pursued beyond an expression of pardon.
The matter of forgiving ourselves is raised because it is an expression used in secular counselling in dealing with feelings of guilt. Christians are troubled by guilt, but the solution is to apply the gospel to ourselves and appreciate God’s forgiveness. There is no biblical injunction to forgive oneself.
A minor annoyance connected with the printing of the book is that the paper cover has a tendency to curl open. That aside, the book makes a useful contribution to the important matter of both being forgiving and being forgiven.