"Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis," by L. Gregory Jones (Eerdmans, 332 pp.; $28, hardcover; $18, paper).

Anybody who thinks hard about forgiveness will start a lot more rabbits than he can catch. The topic raises a whole nest of questions, and the good answers will seldom be the easy ones.

Take a case. Suppose that you are a lonesome, middle-aged woman who has finally met a suitable man. He speaks gently, laughs musically, and reads widely. He walks you slowly through spring air that is laden with the scent of lilacs and points out the nesting habits of finches, particularly of the yellow ones. He relishes a good Sunday sermon and can later recall whole swatches of it while he cooks your dinner. He is almost unimaginably attentive. This charming man fills you with such a sense of promise, with so much trust and love and longing, that you never do ask why he wants to arrange a joint banking account while the two of you are still on your honeymoon. After he cleans you out, disappears immaculately, and then shows up on a most-wanted list (six aliases, two previous convictions for similar offenses), you face a terrible truth. You have been betrayed, and you never saw it coming.

Now some questions. What would have to happen before you could forgive this louse? Would he have to repent? Suppose you never see him again. Could you forgive him anyway? As a Christian, must you forgive him? How soon? For his sake or for yours? What if you try to forgive him, but can't? May your pastor, sedate in his wisdom and serene in his marriage, urge you to forgive? Doesn't that just add a load of guilt to your trauma?

Anyhow, isn't forgiveness too good for traitors? Isn't there something almost unjust about it--something that trivializes ...

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