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Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds Paperback – September 23, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway (September 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1581349807
  • ISBN-13: 978-1581349801
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Offenses will come. It's a given. Unpacking Forgiveness wisely prepares us for the aftermath. Grieving the loss of our six children in a van accident and then being reminded of that loss throughout thirteen years of subsequent battles forced us to search the Scriptures concerning the issue of forgiveness. Chris not only has confirmed answers that we had found but has thoroughly sorted out what it takes to be right with God and man. This is a diligent work with heart."
Scott Willis

"Forgiveness of one another is one of the most important subjects in the Bible, and yet one so often misunderstood. Now Christopher Brauns has done a magnificent job in helping us understand the true nature of biblical forgiveness. Every Christian will profit from reading and applying this book."
Jerry Bridges, author, The Pursuit of Holiness

"Here is a book that lives up to its title. Forgiveness remains a distant dream for many people precisely because they don't know what it means, where to begin or what to expect. Blending contemporary stories with the teaching of the Bible, Christopher Brauns unpacks forgiveness so that we can be set free from bitterness. I especially appreciated his emphasis on coming back to the character of God and learning to delight in him as the only way forward when we have been deeply hurt. A book to be read on your knees. It could change your life."
Ray Pritchard, President, Keep Believing Ministries; author of Credo, Discovering God's Will for Your Life, The Amazing Journey of Faith

"My grandmother used to say that every healthy relationship is made up of two good forgivers. Chris Brauns has written a book that complements my grandmother's saying by showing us the indispensability of understanding and practicing forgiveness. Biblically sound, theologically rich, sensitively illustrated, and profoundly practical, Chris's book shows that forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel. And because of its gospel-centeredness, Unpacking Forgiveness provides the perspective needed to liberate you from past relational pains, present relational tensions, and future relational fears. This is a book that needs to be read. This is a book that needs to be lived. I heartily recommend it!"
Tullian Tchividjian, Founder, LIBERATE; author, One-Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World 

"There is no more common or urgent pastoral need in the church today than to cultivate the gospel practice of forgiveness. Christians need to know what the Bible teaches and live it out, radically. Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds is an engaging, convicting, but emphatically encouraging treatment of this hugely important (and sometimes mind-bogglingly challenging) part of life. Dr. Brauns writes from the standpoint of a faithful, wise, experienced, and caring pastor who has seen the heartbreak of an unforgiving spirit at work in the lives of people, but also the power of grace in the hearts of Christians who have learned to forgive and be forgiven."
J. Ligon Duncan III, Chancellor and John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi

"There are few things more unnatural and few things more holy than forgiveness. Living as we do in a fallen world, we are given endless opportunities both to extend and to seek forgiveness. In Unpacking Forgiveness, Chris Brauns eschews the easy answers and looks to the Bible to provide God's wisdom on how and when we are to forgive. Relying on his experience as a pastor and his deep knowledge of Scripture, he provides what is a logical, well-illustrated book on the subject. With humor at times and appropriate gravitas at others, Brauns leads the reader first to understand and then to apply what the Bible teaches on forgiveness. Because it deals biblically with a subject of universal importance, any reader can benefit from reading Unpacking Forgiveness. I recommend that you do just that."
Tim Challies, author, The Next Story; blogger, Challies.com

"Using the parameters 'forgive as God forgives,' this book describes something other than a cheapened, 'automatic' forgiveness. Dr. Brauns lays careful gridlines that are 'dripping with Scripture,' as he puts it, for working through complex and deeply painful situations. Unpacking Forgiveness offers a tender hand of guidance to those who ache to unpack what life has flung at them and awakens a longing for the happiness that only forgiveness can bring."
Shannon Popkin, Speaker, Freelance Writer, Blogger

"In a culture that all too often embraces oversimplistic remedies for forgiveness and reconciliation, Brauns provides a truly helpful and honest discussion about biblical forgiveness. Unpacking Forgiveness will be an essential resource for small groups, students, and ministry leaders (seasoned or newcomers) because it wrestles with the intellectual, emotional, and biblical issues of living in redemptive relationships in a fallen world."
Peter G. Osborn, Associate Dean of Student Services and Assistant Professor of Educational Ministries, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary

"Unpacking Forgiveness is a must read for every believer. All my life I was told to forgive, and now Chris Brauns tells me how. This practical and powerful book paints a penetrating picture of the forgiving Christ, my model on how to forgive. I cannot escape the bold and beautiful biblical truths within these pages. As a Christ-follower, I know exactly how to respond to those who have hurt me, and each action response sets me free . . . indeed."
Doug Fagerstrom, President, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary

"Traveling through life cannot be done without 'unpacking forgiveness.' This is as good an explanation on what true forgiveness is and how it is accomplished as I have ever read. All interpersonal relationships and our relationship with God an be helped by reading this book. Unpacking Forgiveness is a compelling read."
William K. Bernhard, Lead Pastor, Spring Creek Church, Pewaukee, Wisconsin; Chaplain, Milwaukee Bucks

"Biblical, accessible, thorough, and practical, Rev. Brauns builds from the Scriptures a solid model of forgiveness that is clear, engaging, and convincing. He tackles the issues, answers the questions, and provides the guidance needed to forgive even the hard cases in a Christ-honoring way. Highly recommended!"
John N. Day, Pastor, Bellewood Presbyterian Church, Bellevue, Washington; Author, Crying for Justice

"Chris Brauns has written a twofer. Unpacking Forgiveness not only challenges popular, therapeutic notions of forgiveness, but it also supplies practical, step-by-step instructions for those who aren't sure how to begin. Grounded in Scripture and sharpened by ministry to hurting people, Brauns's godly counsel will inspire many to shake off years of guilt and bitterness and begin the long, healing journey of forgiveness."
Mike Wittmer, Professor of Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary; Author of Heaven Is a Place on Earth and Don't Stop Believing

"With pastoral realism, biblical conviction, and thoughtful reflection on wide reading, Brauns masterfully unpacks the complexity of Christian forgiveness. His humor and liveliness, with a striking story-telling gift, disarmingly navigate beyond the popular 'therapeutic model' into a deeper understanding of biblical forgiveness. From the opening quiz you know his approach is different, and you will likely find your questions both asked and answered by this powerfully practical book. Taken seriously it will revolutionize your life."
Michael Quicke, CW Koller Professor of Preaching, Northern Seminary, Lombard, Illinois

About the Author

Chris Brauns is senior pastor at the Congregational Christian Church of Stillman Valley, Illinois. He earned his MBA from Northern Iowa University, MDiv from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and DMin from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has studied and spoken extensively on the topic of forgiveness.

Customer Reviews

Only God's Word and God's ways can help us to work through these hurts with humility, love, grace and faith.
David A. Vosseller
While it can be effective as a how-to book, its true value is in pastorally teaching the true meaning of biblical forgiveness and spurring readers to practice it.
James Drake
He distinguishes between a kind of therapeutic forgiveness that may make us feel better, and a genuine forgiveness that actually brings about reconciliation.
Tim Challies

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Tim Challies TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
You do not need to live long in this world before you will accumulate a nearly endless list of people to whom you owe forgiveness. Even young children quickly begin to sin against others and have to ask forgiveness (just as my two-year old had to seek forgiveness from her sister yesterday for tearing a page from her new Bible). And though Christians speak often of forgiveness extended to them by God, they speak far less often of forgiveness offered to others. In Unpacking Forgiveness, Chris Brauns provides "biblical answers for complex questions and deep wounds." And really it is only God's word that can unpack forgiveness, offering hope for true and lasting healing.

Brauns offers teaching on forgiveness that counters much of the mainstream of Evangelical thought. Nowhere is this shown more clearly than in his discussion about the conditional nature of forgiveness. Where we are accustomed to Christians "forgiving" any and everyone, perhaps standing outside the scene of a school shooting with signs saying, "We forgive you," Brauns shows that this is not true forgiveness in a biblical sense. He distinguishes between a kind of therapeutic forgiveness that may make us feel better, and a genuine forgiveness that actually brings about reconciliation.

The book is packed with illustrations, many of which are heartbreaking. You will read some stories that have been widely reported in the media (such as the story of the Willis family whose six children were killed in a van accident caused by a manufacturing defect) and others that will be new to you. But through each of the stories you will see remarkable examples of Christians both extending and receiving forgiveness.

Brauns roots the human pattern of forgiveness in the divine model given to us by God.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Darryl Dash on October 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
I don't think that there are many issues that come up more often than forgiveness. I sense this every time I speak about it. I can sense that I'm talking about an issue that is real for every person who is present.

Learning how to forgive isn't easy. Hurts often run deep; some situations that demand forgiveness are almost unspeakable. How does one forgive when the offense is so great, and the wound is so deep? To make things even more complicated, people who teach about forgiveness often offer conflicting answers. Not only is forgiveness difficult, but it's also frequently misunderstood.

Given these difficulties, I suspect I'll be using Unpacking Forgiveness quite a bit in the coming years. It's written by a pastor - Chris Brauns - and it reminds me what good pastoral practice should look like:

* It's biblical - I've heard a lot of opinions about forgiveness. Brauns, thankfully, is driven by Scripture rather than his own views. It's hard to find anything in the book that isn't grounded in Scripture.

* It's clear - There's a lot of fuzzy thinking about forgiveness. I know; there was some fuzziness in my thinking when I began this book. For instance, many of us fall into a therapeutic model of forgiveness, which makes forgiveness about our emotions rather than a relationship. Brauns does a good job of untangling the issues and clearly communicating which approaches are right, and why it matters.

* It's practical - This is not some abstract treatise. Anyone struggling with the forgiveness can pick up this book and immediately benefit. It answers practical questions about when (and when not to) confront, how to go about forgiving, how to respond to the unrepentant, how to conquer bitterness, and more.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Gelatt on February 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
When I receive books to review I place them in one of three piles. The first stack are books I highly value and the second are works that are trite, silly, and insignificant (a sheer waste of good paper). I take my time as I read through the first, and generally only scan the latter. The third category are books that seem important but are ones that I expect I will have profound disagreements with the content. I also read through these carefully, if for no other reason than to refute them.

When I received a copy of Chris Brauns' Unpacking Forgiveness I immediately placed it into the third category. The key premise of the book is that forgiveness should only be given if the offending party is actually repentant. Frankly, I found this idea morally repugnant and eagerly looked forward to disproving it from scripture.

Three days later, after spending equal amounts of time in the book and in Scripture, Brauns has convinced me that my idea of forgiveness is the one that lacks scriptural support. The author distinguishes biblical forgiveness from therapeutic forgiveness. Popular culture, being exposed to elements of Christian teaching while failing to grasp its deeper tuths, has turned forgiveness into a feeling, instead of the radical commitment to reconciliation as taught in scripture. Therapeutic forgiveness sees it as a private feeling that should be granted unconditionally. In this view, forgiveness is offered out of self-interest--we forgive in order to be freed from hate and bitterness. Scripture however demonstrates that forgiveness is a cooperative event between two individuals conditioned upon repentance. The motivation for forgiveness arises out of our love for the other person and for God.
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More About the Author

CHRIS BRAUNS is the Senior Pator at the Congregational Christian Church of Stillman Valley, IL. Chris left the corporate world in 1990 and graduated from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 1993 with a Master of Divinity degree. Since then he has served as a youth pastor, senior pastor, and church planting pastor. In 2006, Chris received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary having completed the preaching track under Haddon Robinson. Chris is the author of Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds (Crossway) and When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search (Moody).

Visit Chris Brauns at www.ChrisBrauns.com

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