Pastor, Do You Cringe from Problems in Your Church?

It is strange that we as pastors, called to preach the gospel of grace to sinners, balk at having to deal with real sinners with real sin in real and messy situations. If we are to apply the Word of God to every aspect of life — sin and all — we must change our attitudes about conflict. Since it is God and His purposes we tend to forget in conflict, it would be best to start by asking: who is God, and what are His purposes with respect to conflict?

Alfred Poirier, The Peacemaking Pastor (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 72.

Forgiveness Is about Us, Not Me

Forgiveness does not begin and end with the person who is forgiving, nor is its emphasis on how forgiveness can help me. Whatever benefit forgiveness may have to me personally, it is not about me – it is about us. It is about people created by God to live in relationship with him and one another. As such, we are in the depths of our identity lovers of people and restorers of broken relationships. We are indeed our brother’s keeper!

original emphasis, Alfred Poirier, The Peacemaking Pastor (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 148-149.

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Christ Has Not Dismissed Sin; Instead, He Has Paid Its Price in Full

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 see 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 us! The forgiveness that is won by Christ comes at the price of his death for real offense, for true guilt.

Christ has not dismissed sin; instead, he has paid its price in full.

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

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The Consequences of Superficial Repentance

In our eagerness to settle disputes, we easily are tempted to settle for superficial repentance. We rush to make the offended party forgive without equally addressing the offender’s real offenses – the outstanding issues of justice that remain in making restitution – and without recognizing the gravity of the offender’s sin.

The effect of this process is the opposite of what we intended. We get a mere apology rather than a true confession of wrongdoing. We see the offender nodding to the idea of needing to change rather than taking concrete steps to recompense the one against whom he has sinned and alter the offender’s behavior.

Alfred Poirier, The Peacemaking Pastor (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 141.
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God Doesn’t Forget; He Does Remember No More

In Jeremiah 31.34, God declares, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”…. Forgiveness is defined as God not remembering our sins. That is, the Lord promises not to call to mind our record of wrongs against Him and use our record against us. He promises not to accuse us before others. He promises to remember our sins no more.

Alfred Poirier, The Peacemaking Pastor (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 152.

Forgiveness Is Part of Being Our Brother’s Keeper

Forgiveness is not… individualistic and psychic. Forgiveness does not begin and end with the person who is forgiving, nor is its emphasis on how forgiveness can help me. Whatever benefit forgiveness may have to me personally, it is not about me — it is about us. It is about people created by God to live in a relationship with Him and one another. As such, we are in the depths of our identity lovers of people and restorers of relationships. We are indeed our brother’s keeper!

Alfred Poirier, The Peacemaking Pastor (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 114.

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.

A Reason a Non-believing World Is Not Convinced

If the world is little convinced that Jesus is God’s Son, it is due less to any apologetic deficiency and more to the disunity and dysfunction of our life together as the family of God. The Church’s failure in peacemaking is due in large measure to our failure as members to believe and appropriate the biblical truth that the Church is God’s family. Biblical peacemaking will only become firmly rooted in the Church when we recover the meaning and practice of the Church as the family of God.

Alfred Poirier, The Peacemaking Pastor (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 91.