True Forgiveness

True forgiveness is not an excusing or ignoring of evil. Rather, biblical forgiveness — forgiving as God forgives — recognizes the grave nature of sin in all its moral depravity. In other words, forgiveness recognizes the sinfulness of sin.

Consequently, when we call a person to forgive another who has offended him or her, we are not asking the offended person to minimize the extent to which the offender is responsible for his or her sin (‘Well, everyone sins’) or to minimize the offense (‘It was nothing’). True forgiveness is when the offended looks upon the offender and sees the offender’s sin as justly deserving the wrath of God in light of God’s great holiness.

Christian forgiveness, then, is granted from a position not of weakness but of true moral strength and clarity of vision. Because biblical forgiveness alone recognizes the heinousness of sin against a holy God, it alone understands the immensity of the gift given in uttering the words, ‘I forgive you.’

This gift, of course, is full payment for sin, which is exactly what the gospel declares that Christ has given to us! The forgiveness that is won by Christ comes at the price of his death for real offense, for true guilt. The very necessity of the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God as the ground of forgiveness should be sufficient to answer any accusation that Christian forgiveness is merely ignoring sin, trivializing sin, or indulging the wicked, Christ has not dismissed sin; instead, he has paid its price in full.

Alfred Poirier, The Peacemaking Pastor (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 147.

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