Skip to content

The Art of Reconciliation: Forgiving and Remembering Rightly


It was the end of May 2001. I hate remembering the exact date. My wife was expectant and any day the baby should have arrived. The joy of the first child, unfortunately, was eclipsed by a tragic and very traumatic experience. Providentially, a few days prior to the incident, I walked into the baby’s room and was imagining the white cover over the cradle as a cover of death. I was beginning to fear the worst. Like Abraham before the Mount Moriah event, I did not share this insight with my wife. I believe the Spirit of God was preparing me for the days to come. Ignoring the thought was a viable option, but confirmation of my fears did come.

On Monday morning my wife did not feel any movements of the child at all, and instantly we rushed to the clinic. The doctor was stunned when she realized that there was no heartbeat. We were devastated and tried to figure out how it could have happened. I even prayed for a miracle of resurrection. Nothing happened. Nothingness of despair was overwhelming. My wife was taken to the hospital, and she underwent the awful experience of delivering a stillborn child. I tried to get home through busy traffic wondering how we would survive this blow. Yet the grace of God did not leave us.

My wife received an encouragement from the Scripture that we would receive double for the lost one (we have two beautiful daughters now), and I received the joy of knowing that our little lamb lies in the bosom of Christ. Resurrection reality, therefore, was just postponed, not completely put off. The baby indeed became “God’s first gift” (Mia Theodora was her intended name) preserved exclusively for Himself. The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away!1 “Adonai natanAdonai lakach, yehi shem Adonai m’vorach.” And most importantly for us, the Lord has spoken!

Nevertheless, the time came for recapitulation of the experience and some memories of the negligence and carelessness of the doctor came back. We just could not forgive her for a long time, though every indicator pointed to a tragic accident. For us, she did not care enough to save our child. Not ignoring the “perpetrator’s” responsibility we should have forgiven at once, striving to imitate Christ, but we could not. It took some time. This is why forgiveness is difficult. Our woundedness, or at least a dimension of it, needed healing. Symbolically, our forgiveness (letting it go) has become Theodora (God’s gift) to this undeserving doctor. Forgiving is always gift-giving. Embrace, not exclusion.

Forgiveness is even more complex when, instead of the unknown doctor whom you would probably never meet again, the “perpetrator” is someone very close to you, the immediate family member, a relative or a friend, or a well-known enemy. What does Miroslav Volf, Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology and Director of the Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School, the originator of the theology of embrace and life worth living, have to say on the complex reality of forgiving?


In his interview “Giving Forgiveness”2 Miroslav Volf starts explaining the dynamic nature of forgiveness in the context of giving and generosity. Asserting that forgiveness is possible only by crossing the bridge from the self to the other, Volf reveals his identity and vocation as a bridge-building theologian. There are two basic forms of generosity: giving and forgiving. Forgiveness is the gift to one who is a wrongdoer; it is a different kind of giving. At the heart of all this reality is a gift-giving God who is love by nature, fundamentally a gift-giver. Christ emptied himself to restore the broken relationship with God, as a great gift-giver.

According to Volf, when we forgive we do imitate and follow Christ, but it is more than imitation. With God one has a much closer relationship than with the one who merely gives. St. Augustine said: “In my heart of hearts God is closer to me than I am to myself.”3 Therefore, not only by imitation [John Howard Yoder claims, for example, that forgiveness is different from other moral duties because it does point to the Cross in its relation and enmity; forgiveness absorbs hostility],4 but by the power of Christ dwelling in us (His intimate/mystical closeness) forgiveness is made possible. We do not, then, take the credit. All the glory belongs to the indwelling Christ.

Forgiveness, as a singular kind of gift, is giving more than the person deserves. “I resist,” Volf claims, “the urge to give back equal measure. In the litigious society of the United States we want to make sure justice is done. If one wants to forgive one does not press charges, but looks at the person and imagine(s) a forgiven person.”5 I believe Volf had in mind a general Christian stance and not the state’s obligation to provide justice.6

Forgiving as a special form of gift-giving makes sense in this brief span of human life. Volf recognizes that short-term altruism often aims just to get someone for ourselves. The structure of human interaction, paradoxically, is made up in such a way that it makes sense to give and forgive. As wisdom prevails we need to reach the point of Christian maturity, namely a Christ-like spirit of forgiveness. As already noted, Volf underlines the contrast between God’s grace and natural wisdom. At the same time, forgiveness is a transcendent gift and a coherent and reasonable part of the structure of this already given natural reality. Nature and grace, Greeks and Scripture, Thomas Aquinas?! Volf always tries to walk a tightrope.

Being aware of the fact that forgiveness is often an unfinished product, even if a person pushes away the forgiveness, it is still a valuable gift. Even if it is incomplete one is obliged to do it.7 Furthermore, forgiveness becomes the echo of God’s forgiveness. Every act of forgiveness is a scandal resembling God’s scandalous forgiveness at the cross. The nature of God’s cross-centered forgiveness is best described in the classic of Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest:

God does forgive, but it cost the breaking of His heart with grief in the death of Christ to enable Him to do so. The great miracle of the grace of God is that He forgives sin, and it is the death of Jesus Christ alone that enables the divine nature to forgive and to remain true to itself in doing so. It is shallow nonsense to say that God forgives us because He is love. Once we have been convicted of sin, we will never say this again. The love of God means Calvary — nothing less! The love of God is spelled out on the Cross and nowhere else. The only basis for which God can forgive me is the Cross of Christ. It is there that His conscience is satisfied.8

This depth of soteriological reality becomes restorative and leads to liberation. Like God, we should not only relinquish someone’s claim against a perpetrator but exercise a constructive (motivation/desire for) a restored relationship.9 The central project of divine-human concern and the nexus of a divine-human restored relationship is a forgiveness of sin.

No one really deserves forgiveness. Yet unless it happens nothing can be restored. It is a scandal but also a great need. Volf says in his interview, “If justice rolled all the time, the world would be destroyed.”10 In Free of Charge he summarizes the broader dynamic nature of forgiveness:

Forgiveness is a special kind of gift. When we give we seek the good of the other. The same is true for forgiveness: we forgive that they may benefit from the results. There is also a fundamental difference between the two. When we give we enhance the joy of the other in need, but when we forgive we release the other of the burden of guilt. The difference is in violation suffered. That is why forgiveness is more difficult than giving.11

The complexity and difficulty of forgiveness stems, therefore, from its unique nature where we deliberately and consciously refrain from searching for retributive justice.

In his interview “Consider Forgiveness,”12 Volf continues with an idea that forgiveness is risky and tough. We forgive, hoping we will not become losers. Is apology necessary? Volf sees forgiveness as unconditional: that’s what God does — He forgives without waiting on us to repent. This is the ultimate meaning of the cross and the redemptive story. Forgiveness is not predicated on someone else’s apology, but it is not possible to come to fruition and flourishing without apology. It is like sending a gift to someone – it takes both sending and receiving. Have I given a gift to someone who rejects the gift? It depends, observes Volf. It takes another person to receive by apologizing and repenting.

Looking at the autobiographical sketch of Volf’s life, why did his parents forgive the negligence involved in the accidental death of his little brother Daniel?1 Volf remembers that their attitude was based on the belief in what the Word of God explicitly says. Without exaggeration and probably having in mind his childhood angel, Aunt Milica, little Daniel’s guardian who was forgiven, Volf reminds us that it is very difficult to carry on with a determination to believe and practice what the Word pronounces. But the purpose of forgiveness is not to relieve one’s own burden or to relieve the guilt of the other but to turn the person toward living in a more positive way and even to flourish.

Most of the time forgiveness comes in droplets and in bits and pieces; dark thoughts come and we realize we do not wish to forgive. But we ought to forgive, and we are always free to forgive. The cycle of forgiveness is always present, explains Volf.13 It is not a single act of the will, it is walking into something unknown and unfamiliar, living in something that develops and grows. As an embrace can be clumsy, so forgiveness can be, too. It is wandering around in uncharted territories.

Volf’s interview “Why Forgive”14 brings out an additional dimension of his ethics of forgiveness. We cannot remove one’s guilt, but we should unstick wrongdoing from the doer. It is like a tattoo forever associated with the person, and forgiveness is erasing this tattoo, so to speak. Only God can forgive fully, and it takes a divine miracle to separate the doer from the deed. The doer dies and is resurrected as a new person, because all have died in Christ.15 The mystery of forgiveness is hidden in the act in which God took sin upon Himself. Moreover, all humanity vicariously died and was raised in Christ. Forgiveness is desirable and deeply human and should take place, but the deed must be separated from the doer, concludes Volf.16 This unique soteriological and anthropological insight helps us to regard all human beings as potentially forgiven and makes our effort of forgiving much easier. Separation of the doer from the deed requires a conscious effort of focusing on Christ’s cross-centered method and a constant remembering of the imitatio Christi by the grace of God. In the uncharted territory of forgiveness there is a flag post of divine undeserved benevolence, the potent image of the Hanged and Tormented One.

Elaborating on the complex relationship between justice and forgiveness, Volf admits that this is the question of all questions. It has, of course, two dimensions: intellectual and existential. The existential question is always, how can I live with pain and forgive? First of all, we should not juxtapose forgiveness and justice. When I forgive I acknowledge that I was indeed harmed! Therefore, how can you forgive if there is no harm? Forgiveness assumes justice:someone did harm to me.17 In the interview “Consider Forgiveness: Do You Need Justice in Order to Forgive?”18 Volf states that some claims of justice are always there when you are wronged and you lose something so dear to you. There is no forgiveness without justice. The best explanation of the dynamic relation between forgiveness and justice is given in Conversations with Miroslav Volf:

Forgiveness is not simply an act that negates justice; rather, it affirms justice in the very act of transcending justice. If I said to you right now, “I forgive you,” you would be upset with me and tell me, “There’s nothing to forgive, because I’ve never seen you in my life, and therefore could not have done you any wrong.” Clearly I would have blamed you by forgiving you, and it is this sense of blame made against the backdrop of affirmed justice which forgiveness needs in order to be forgiveness. By transcending justice, forgiveness affirms it, rather than leaving it behind. To see justice as a constitutive element of grace is essential to my project, but unfortunately Exclusion and Embrace is not always read in that light.Sometimes “embrace” is understood as “sheer gift” without any sense of justice being affirmed.19

Justice, or the sense of right and wrong, represents, therefore, the basic presupposition of any type of forgiveness. In the Christian tradition a divorce of justice and grace was always disallowed. The grace of forgiveness presupposes, affirms, and finally transcends the sense of justice. Nicholas Wolterstorff contemplates justice which, if understood correctly, might include the act of forgiveness:

Though Christian scripture speaks often about justice, it neither gives a definition nor offers a theory of justice. It assumes that we know well enough what justice is. What it does do, over and over, is enjoin its readers to act justly and to right injustice. It enjoins them to do so out of a love for justice. It sets those imperatives within a theological context that explains when we should love justice, when we should right injustice, and how we should understand what we are doing when we act justly and right injustice.20

To right injustice and to act justly means also to forgive. Forgiveness, therefore, confirms and reflects something of justice. Though it must transcend justice, forgiveness assumes the basic structure of acting justly.

In his 2001 Croatia interview, Volf explains another relationship of repentance and forgiveness. He recognizes the fact that confession of sin is more difficult than forgiveness. Forgiveness is complex but repentance is even more difficult. Forgiveness is strength, and repentance is a sign of weakness, but repentance is a condition for freedom. We need repentanceto recognize failure.21 To repent is the most difficult Christian experience, insists Volf. Forgiveness assumes power: I am the one who is right. In repenting, however, I am standing exposed, and I do not know what is going to happen to me. Volf observes that Pope Benedict XVI [Pope Francis] made a right move when he pointed to sin within the Church’s structure especially its power structures. We all need repentance.22 Especially those who claim they are depositors of the grace of God.

The anthropological-theological question that is raised in the context of the forgiveness reality is the following: Can we even forgive the perpetrators that demolished our sense of self-esteem and self-worth? Regarding the 1991-1995 atrocities in the Balkan wars and the particular context in which both Volf and I were raised, there was and is much to be forgiven. But with wrongful memory forgiveness does seem implausible and impossible. Volf indeed confesses: “I cannot embrace the chetnik [metaphor of Serbian aggression], but as a Christian I should be able to do that!”23 And then, here at Yale, 13 years later I asked Volf, “Why can’t you embrace a chetnik?” (This was an allusion to the 2001 interview.) “Was it a political statement or a heart statement? You said you should be able to do that. Haven’t you just embraced a chetnik when I stepped into your office?” I challenged him with a smile.

Chetnikis a metaphor,” Volf responded.24 “A chetnik is someone who is a present source of harm, or who has been a source of harm.” Well, Dr. Volf, let me ask you another question: “Should the Croatian nation apologize for Jasenovac and Oluja [extreme forms of genocide and/or expulsion of the Serbian nation from modern Croatia], and the Serbian nation for atrocities in Slavonia [Croatia] and Bosnia, and should this be the starting point of reconciliation? Should Arabs apologize for atrocities toward Jews and Israel for their imperialistic tendencies?”

“At the level of nations and ethnic groups this is a very slow process,” admits Volf. What is needed, according to Volf, is transparency, truth commissions, common writing of history, and purification of memory. I would add: moral discernment, will to reconcile, public apologies, renewed educational efforts. All of this might contribute to further reconciliation. “Emphasis only on unqualified remembrance is not helpful, because if we do remember we have to do it well and rightly in order to forgive,” concludes Volf.25 Later on I will refer to Volf’s work The End of Memory as a foundational opus for the understanding of remembering rightly. For now, I admire Volf’s courage to respond to my sensitive questions at Yale that make historical and individual harm and forgiveness so tangible that we could feel it on our skin.

There is one more note worth mentioning before I turn to the meaning of rightful or proper remembrancein the same context of forgiveness, reconciliation, and the ethics of embrace. How does forgiveness, the chief mark of distinction of the Christian faith, work with other religions in comparison to Christianity? According to Volf, Buddhism has compassion but forgiveness is different; Islam and Judaism have a variety of monotheistic approaches as well. The unique Christian theology of forgiveness is based on the principle of unconditionality. It is prior even to a person’s need of forgiveness. Before I was there, God in Christ took my sin away and reconciled me to Himself. His forgiveness just needs to be received. When the gift of forgiveness is not received, forgiveness is not complete. Central for Volf is to look at forgiving as a social event — not as something that happens merely in a person, but something that happens between persons. Forgiveness is a movement, in which there may be a partial instantiation of forgiving even if there is not fully fledged forgiveness. Forgiveness may be partial partly because we find it difficult to forgive and partly because the other person may refuse to accept forgiveness.26 But given the pervasiveness of violence, deceit, abuse, hatred, animosity, religious bigotry, etc., human forgiveness is an indispensable, mammoth project!

Volf constantly starts from the presupposition that we are recipients of the abundant gifts of God’s grace in Christ. Just as divine grace invites to repentance and makes repentance possible, so also a victim’s gift of forgiveness creates a space for the perpetrator to admit their fault, ask for pardon, and mend their ways [italics mine].27

In fact, God’s commitment to create this space and to forgive the world comes before creating the world. The God who gives is the one who forgives. Similarly, in marriage, for example, the commitment to forgive comes before the marriage vows.28 “The same love that propelled God to create by giving propelled God to mend the creation by forgiving.”29 “For Christians, forgiveness is paradigmatically enacted in Christ’s death.”30 The cross stands as the ultimate fulfillment of the unconditional and prior gift of universal forgiveness seeking space to show mercy and not to condemn.

God condemned sin universally in Jesus Christ. “God did so not out of impotence or cowardice, but in order to free us from sin’s guilt and power.” “That’s how we should treat those who transgress against us. We should absorb the wrongdoing in order to transform the wrongdoer,”31 contends Volf. Contrary to revenge that multiplies evil and retributive justice that contains evil, forgiveness overcomes evil. “The heart of forgiveness is relinquishing retribution.”32 It seems, according to Volf’s ethics and theology of forgiveness, that those who seriously immerse themselves in the free gift of God’s unconditional forgiveness are able to offer the same gift to others. His insistence on complete “letting go,” “absorbing” the wrongdoing and transforming the perpetrator implies that only radical disciples of Christ and committed followers of the ideals of the Sermon on the Mount are capable of genuine forgiving. A natural theology of forgiveness, therefore, has no place in this dynamic and transcendent reality. Unless Christ does the forgiving through us, we cannot walk this road or experience this scandal.

Finally, speaking about embrace as an outcome of forgiveness, Volf explains:

Forgiveness places us on a boundary between enmity and friendship, between exclusion and embrace. It tears down the wall of hostility that wrongdoing erects, but it doesn’t take us into the territory of friendship. Should those who forgive stay in a neutral zone?33

He adds, “There can be no embrace of the former enemy without forgiveness, and forgiveness should lead beyond itself to embrace.”34 And, I would certainly add, in the context of his overall anthropological-theological emphasis, to a life worth living! Forgiveness “lets the offense slip into oblivion not right away, but eventually, not as a matter of course, but when the time is ripe.”35

When the time was ripe and the Grace of God miraculously transformed our weary souls, my wife and I could forgive the negligent doctor. But we should be able to embrace her as well. After all, she is like us, co-sufferer and co-searcher for Christ and droplets of Kingdom’s values. One day we will hug her, not just metaphorically. Every forgiveness leads to embrace. There is no neutral zone! The cross of forgiveness leads to the joy of ultimate embrace.

Giving, and forgiving the offense, is undoubtedly at the center of the ethics of embrace and the fruitful life worth living. But how is it possible not to remember the offense anymore? How can we move beyond forgiveness to the ultimate act of embrace and final reconciliation? Perhaps also by remembering rightly!

Remembering Rightly

Remembering wrongly or rightly? I always remember my father as a stern disciplinary figure who possibly crossed the line between love and discipline. Perhaps he had no chance to learn it from his own father. He was raised in a poor, hardworking family. In my early childhood, I remember my father as an abusive alcoholic who, wishing a good future for his son, suddenly abstained from alcohol. By human effort and common sense he did his best to mend his ways and serve his family. There was another ray of light in this dark memory. Recalling the last moments of his life in the hospital always brings me back to a sense of despair and hope at the same time.

He was dying of a terminal genetic disease, and he had no time or energy to talk to us children. I was 14 and my sister was eight when we visited him in the hospital for the last time. In that moment when everything was hopeless, he demonstrated caring love and fear for our future by telling us to be obedient to his spouse/our mother and to respect her. Was his sensus divinitatis working properly? After the painful death of my father and the awful cold 1986 winter funeral, I experienced desolation and agony, and I was giving my best to keep my emotional machinery working well enough to propel me forward despite all. Yet, the ambiguous image of my father called for the clearing out of my memory.

So, do I remember wrongly or rightly? How can I remember rightly? Is my mind still enslaved by the abuse or neglect I suffered as a child?36 To what extent did my father colonize my future and eclipse the horizon of my possibilities?37 Will he always be an abusive alcoholic even in my nightmares?38 What about the change in his character — where does that fit into the picture? Is there any hope in remembering rightly?

The key question posed by Miroslav Volf is: “How should I remember abuse as a person committed to loving the wrongdoer and overcoming evil with good?”39 In the Christian faith this is the cornerstone of a practical expression of religious belief. Remembering properly is an integral part of the forgiveness experience. There is, indeed, a need to remember rightly. Only by remembering rightly is there a hope in forgiveness, reconciliation, and embrace. Volf’s volume The End of Memory came as “good medicine for our cultural health and personal flourishing.”40

First of all, according to Volf, the memory of pain replicates pain.41 Memory is a part of our identity, so pain becomes part of that, too.42 Therefore, the blessed life should include forgetting how suffering and evil felt.43 Life worth living cannot be interpreted and attained without remembering rightly. The bottom line is the following:

Victims will often become perpetrators precisely on account of their memories. It is because they remember past victimization that they feel justified in committing present violence… So easily does the protective shield of memory morph into a sword of violence.44

Thus, remembering rightly would bring not just healing for the victim but the breaking of the cycle of revenge and perpetual violence. Was it Gandhi who said, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind?” It is critical to know at this point that revenge or retaliation is sometimes directed toward an innocent party and has nothing to do with the original perpetrator. How many nominal Christians, raised in abusive families, continue to abuse their spouses or children because they remember wrongly? Isn’t this an urgent call to forgiveness in remembering rightly?

Doesn’t forgiveness as forgetfulness or the lack of memory cover up and promote the further violence of the perpetrator? Isn’t memory, though ambiguous, still the redeeming keeper of moral equilibrium? As Elie Wiesel said, “Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair.”45

“I do not like the expression forgetfulness,” Volf responds in his interview with me.46 “Non-remembrance or not coming to mind is a better expression, and this reality is possible as a conclusion of a successful reconciliation, not as a condition for reconciliation.” Forgiveness, therefore, is a social event between people. Forgiveness will stimulate the slow fading of the memory of the perpetrator.47 Yet, forgiveness is a process and where we are in that process determines how good the chance is to be transformed. It is a life journey, Volf reminds us. Religious imagination is one thing but reality is another. Appropriation should be done in Christian terms, and we need a Christian-motivated imagination. Forgiveness is dealing with our own resentment but it is much more about reconstituting relationships with people. Forgiveness aims at returning to the other their own good from which they have fallen. Volf notes that this idea is expressed by the young Luther, but it is also inscribed into the logic of salvation.48

Volf’s conviction about forgiveness, therefore, presupposes a certain anthropological model, namely personhood that is always in search of holistic relationships. Forgiveness provides the space for restoring this basic nature of all human beings. This remarkable idea is, indeed, fresh, vibrant, and illuminating. Shalom is impossible without forgiveness! The common good and the ethics of embrace are possible only if we forgive by remembering rightly! When we remember wrongly, we also tend to reconstruct events, sometimes untruthfully; in fact, we are faced with the impossibility of remembering truthfully.49 Victimized and hurt, we have unintentionally distorted memories of the past. This distortion may paralyze our ability to forgive and receive forgiveness.

The solution that Volf offers lies in remembering through the lenses of the sacred memories of the biblical Exodus and the Passion of Christ. These memories bring healing and a new form of participation. It is extremely difficult, however, to be “a christ” to the neighbor and remember rightly. For this reason we need to participate in the community which supports the remembrance through the lens of the Passion.50

The theological significance and religious experience of the Passion of Christ can transform the community, which becomes enabled to forgive and remember rightly. The Church should embody Christ’s graciousness and forgiveness. The power structures of the Church would collapse if we lived this distinctive trademark of the Christian faith. Mutual understanding and forgiveness would melt down the abuses, offenses, and conflicts and move us towards the “redemptive dialogue.” John Howard Yoder reminds us “To be human in the light of the Gospel is to face conflict in redemptive dialogue….a mode of truth-finding and community-building.”51 Isn’t this form of dialogue the most urgent need of the Church today?

Volf’s argument is not that memory is bad and amnesia good, or that forgetters have a comparative advantage over rememberers, but rather that under certain conditions the absence of memory of wrongs suffered is desirable.52 How can I embrace a Croatian today if I constantly have the concentration camp of Jasenovac in front of my eyes? My memory of the atrocities can be suspended by my desire to terminate the vicious cycle of retaliation and to promote peace and love. This is true both individually and collectively. It is not just concern for ourselves, but also love for the other, that constitutes the reasons for letting go the memories of wrongs suffered.53

Loving others is the miraculous fruit of the continuing remembrance of the Passion of Christ (the ultimate loving of the other), and therefore, the absence of the memory of wrongs suffered is possible only by perpetual commitment to the One who said, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”54

Therefore, at the Last Judgment, I do believe that my father will receive what Volf calls an “actual acquittal.”55 Me too, because I was neither a perfect son then nor am I a perfect father now! And I also believe that we will be absorbed in a piece of arrestingly beautiful music — music that captivates our entire being and takes us on an unpredictable journey.56 This journey of life worth living starts now and will continue with embrace as it becomes a journey of a new transcendent form of love, the love of God!


Notes & References:

1. Job 1:21 (NIV).

2. Volf, “Giving Forgiveness,”Calvin College interview, April 5, 2012.

3. St Augustine, The Confessions, translated and edited by Albert Cook Outler (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2002), quoted in David Steindl-Rast, The Way of Silence: Engaging the Sacred in Daily Life (Franciscan Media, 2016), n. p.

4. John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus (Eerdmans, 1994), 134.

5. Volf, “Giving Forgiveness,” interview.

6. In Volf’s view, the state’s obligation to do justice is not the obligation of “retribution” but the obligation to discipline the offender, to protect the innocent, and to underscore publicly the importance of what the crime has taken away, which is to say that it is directed toward the future and is not a repayment for the misdeed (Volf, to author, May 2015).

7. Ibid.

8. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for the Highest, Nov 19, 2016.

9. Daniel Philpot, “Lessons in Mercy: Justice and Reconciliation in the Aftermath of Atrocities,” in Moral Issues and Christian Responses, eds Patricia Beattie Jung and L. Shannon Jung (Fortress Press, 2013), 94-95.

10. “Giving Forgiveness,” Ibid.

11. Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006, 130.

12. Miroslav Volf, “Consider Forgiveness,” Interview by Elijah Interfaith Institute, Sept 22, 2009 [published July 5, 2012],

13. Ibid.

14. Miroslav Volf, ”Why Forgive,” The Veritas Forum, Brown University, 30 Nov 2010.

15. 2 Cor 5:14.

16. Volf, “Why Forgive.”

17. Volf, Interview, Croatia, 2001.

18. July 5, 2012.

19. Miroslav Volf, “Conversations with Miroslav Volf, part 2,” Conrad Grebel Review18, no. 3 Fall 2000,  84.

20. Nicholas Wolterstorrf, Journey toward Justice: Personal Encounters in the Global South(Grand Rapids, MI:Baker Academic, 2013), p. 69.

21. Interview, Croatia, 2001.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid.

24. Volf, Interview by author, July 8, 2014.

25. Ibid.

26. Volf, to author, May, 2015.

27. Miroslav Volf, Against the Tide: Love in a Time of Petty Dreams and Persisting Enmities.  Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010, 172.

28. Ibid., 55.

29. Volf, Free of Charge,141.

30. Miroslav Volf, The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World.  Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006, 111.

31. Volf, Free of Charge,161.

32. Ibid., 171.

33. Ibid., 188.

34. Ibid., 190.

35. Ibid., 173.

36. Volf, The End of Memory, 7.

37. Ibid., 12.

38. Ibid., 16.

39. Ibid., 11.

40. Ibid., 232-3.

41. Ibid., 21.

42. Ibid., 24.

43. Ibid., 23.

44. Ibid., 33.


46. Volf, Interview by author, July 8, 2014.

47. Ibid.

48. Ibid.

49. Volf, The End of Memory, 61.

50. Ibid., 126.

51. John Howard Yoder, Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community Before the Watching World (Nashville, TN, Discipleship Resources, 1992), 13.

52. Volf, The End of Memory, 148.

53. Ibid., 165.

54. Isa 43:25 (NIV).

55. Volf, The End of Memory, 229.

56. Ibid., 230.


Alex S. Santrac, DPhil, Ph.D., is a Professor of Ethics, Philosophy, and Religion and the Chair of Religion and Philosophy Department at Washington Adventist University, Takoma Park, MD. Alex is also an extraordinary [research] professor of dogmatics and dogma and Church history at North-West University, South Africa and Tutor for Graduate Studies at Greenwich School of Theology, UK.

This article was originally presented at the Andrews University Research Conference in February 2017, and will be presented in South Africa at the North-West University workshop this coming August. It is adapted from the author’s book, Witness to Life Worth Living: Reflections on Miroslav Volf’s Ethics of Embrace, and is reprinted here with permission.

Photo by Fredrick Suwandi on Unsplash


We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Spectrum Newsletter: The latest Adventist news at your fingertips.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.