Here’s an excerpt from the new book. You can find it here.
We like to be more in control than the free offer of forgiveness affords us. To be in the right with another is to do right by them might put me on somebody’s shit list, but it at least leaves me in the driver’s seat for what will fol- low; whereas, to be in the right with another is to be declared right by them takes away everything from me and leaves me empty- handed. Faith alone in your promise of forgiveness is a disavowal of my own performance to merit it.
If I have to earn your forgiveness, then at least I’ll accrue evi- dence external to either of us to which I can point and justify myself later. If I have to earn your pardon, then I can simultane- ously be on the lookout for anything I can use as leverage against you should you withhold forgiveness. Look at all that I did to make it up to you and still it wasn’t enough, I’ve griped to more than just my wife. But if forgiveness is free, then, like on my wedding day, I’ve got absolutely nothing to hold onto but you. I’ve got nothing to hold on to but my trust in you.
Those who mimic Christ’s unconditional promise by marrying one another in his name take a bigger risk than they realize. Those who say “I do” agree to forget how to count. Bride and groom not only forsake all others from their bed and their hearts, they forsake the calculators we all carry with us and with which we balance the sums and subtractions of our relationships. We’re left on our wedding day with no recourse but to take the other at their word. To trust that you forgive me is to have faith you won’t use my debt later to burn me.
Forgiveness isn’t cheap, Robert Capon says. It isn’t even expensive. It’s free.
Yet the bitter irony that makes every marriage a beautiful risk is that this free forgiveness could cost you everything. More so than the person with whom you share your bed, the graver risk of fidelity in marriage is letting your lover’s promise of forgiveness leave you empty-handed. In marriage you trust that, having been forgiven of it, your wrongdoing won’t boomerang back onto you. You trust your lover won’t wield your wrong later as a weapon against you.