Radical Forgiveness


Radical Forgiveness
Brian Zahnd

When Jesus calls his disciples to take up their own cross and follow him, he means that his disciples are not merely to admire him, but to actively imitate him. And what did Jesus do? He voluntarily abandoned the option of violent retaliation, responding to deep injustice with nothing but forgiving love. On the cross Jesus absorbed sin that was violently sinned into him, refusing to call for the “twelve legions” of retaliation. Instead, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgiven them, for they know not what they do.” With this act of radical forgiveness Jesus broke the bloody cycle of violent revenge. Jesus shed his own blood rather than shed the blood of his enemies. By the blood of Jesus we have been redeemed from sin — the sinful way that Cain and his successors organized human civilization. This act of cruciform love is the epicenter of Christianity. The cross gives the world a new organizing principle. Instead of being organized around an axis of power enforced by violence, the world has now been re-founded around an axis of love expressed in forgiveness. This is what we mean when we speak of the salvation of the cross.

Our own imitation of this kind of cruciform love is demanding, but nothing less than this is authentic Christian discipleship. Sadly, for the most part, the world is still waiting to see this kind of radical discipleship taught and lived out with any consistency by the Church. This should also make it clear why any talk of being a “Christian nation” — whether claimed by Russia, Spain, England, Germany, the United States, or any other body politic — is sheer propaganda. For if as a matter of policy an institution is committed to violent retaliation, whatever else it may be, that institution by definition cannot be called Christlike.



My book Unconditional? The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness is now out in paperback under a new title and with a new cover: Radical Forgiveness: God’s Call to Unconditional Love

The post above is not an excerpt from the book, but a 300 word thought that came to me today while giving a radio interview on the subject of radical forgiveness.

For some reason it also made me think of this…