The ultra short version of this review would be, “Unpunishable is a life changing book, drop everything and read it right now!”
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18
We know the verse well, but punishment is so core to our culture, even within the church, that the idea of doing away with it may sound reckless. How do we deal with sin and relational messes if punishment is off the table? Danny Silk answers this and many other questions surrounding punishment with biblical wisdom and practical experience from years of pastoring people through their messes.
God’s entire mission in human history is to set us free from the punishment paradigm and lead us into a completely new, punishment-free relational paradigm with Him, ourselves, and others.” pg. 66
A Biblical Look at Punishment
In part one of Unpunishable, Silk explores the punishment paradigm and the alternative scripture offers us. He shares testimonies of what the redemption process has looked like in the lives of men and women he has pastored as well as some personal examples of when he’s been in need of correction.
Silk explains the four covenants God made in the Old Testament and the new covenant made through Jesus and how these covenants reveal that God’s heart towards us is always connection and restoration and because of that we can carry that same heart in our relationships.
The 5 E’s for Confrontation
In part two, Silk gives his 5 E’s for confrontation and how he uses them as a roadmap to walk with people through the messes they’ve created in life. These 5 E’s are also called “Heaven’s First Aid Guide” and provide practical steps for how to engage problem situations with love and connection rather than disconnection and punishment.
No Bad Guys
One of my favorite things about Unpunishable is that Silk’s model works well even if the sin or mess was perceived instead of an actual offense. So often the church responds to misunderstandings or relational misses by picking a “bad guy” to punish.
The problem is many times the actual issue isn’t with one “bad guy” but with the lack of communication and redemption process within the community. With Silk’s model there are no “bad guys”, there are just people willing to repent and take ownership of cleaning up the messes they’ve made and dealing with the consequences of those messes.
When the goal is no longer picking a bad guy, everyone is empowered to clean up the mess and heal relationships.
In the punishment paradigm, the focus is on protecting the interests of everyone but the offender, but in the new covenant, we understand that helping the mess-maker clean up their mess is ultimately what will produce justice and healing for everyone affected by it.” pg. 107
When leaders err on the side of protecting the group against the mess-maker without being able to see that the person is repenting, they can end up punishing the mess-maker and cutting them off from reconciliation.” pg. 181
Healing the Broken Spot
One of the core components of repentance Silk describes is the “broken spot”. Our responses to this experience or wound is what has fueled the mess-making and if not resolved will result in more messes in the future.
At the center of every “broken spot” in our lives is a false narrative about the world and our place in it that leads us to take on a false, shame-based identity.” pg. 148
From an inner healing perspective I love that Silk addresses the roots of our sinful and pain causing behaviors. An example he gives in Unpunishable is a pastor who was punished early on in his marriage for adultery but found himself making a mess with adultery again a decade later. The broken spot, the wound, that fed his behavior wasn’t dealt with by punishment the first time.
It took real repentance and healing that broken spot to clean up his mess and restore his marriage. Silk also discusses the role of soul ties in forgiveness and reconciliation as he establishes that reconciliation does not mean the relationship has to go back to the closeness it was before.
Unpunishable answers hard questions like:
- How do we reconcile God’s wrath in the Old Testament with his love in the New Testament?
- How do we handle sin and messes if punishment is off the table?
- What does real repentance look like?
- What’s the difference between consequences, discipline, and punishment?
- How do we handle if someone doesn’t repent?
While the book is written somewhat towards leaders as the audience, Unpunishable is a powerful read for anyone in any type of relationship. It will help you navigate how to handle when other’s hurt you with their mess. And if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of punishment (especially from a church) it will help heal those wounded places that knew all along that punishment wasn’t the honoring way to deal with things.