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.

Don’t Dig up What Christ Buried

A person who has a ‘guilt complex’ can perhaps get relief by unburdening his soul to someone else. For a true believer, of course, no such process is necessary. We go to the Lord, confess our sins, and leave them there. To go back to our sins again and again is to act like a dog who digs a bone which he has buried. The Savior never nags His children; it is Satan who nags the conscience. The God of all grace fully cleanses His child, whom He delights to lead into higher ways, teaching him day by day to walk worthily of the calling wherewith he has been called. Do not, then, play dog, and dig up what was buried by our Lord in His burial.

Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans Vol 3 (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1961), 67.

Do You Thrill at Being Forgiven?

One of the reasons that many Christians seem to have no thrill at being forgiven through the gospel is that they have not been broken hearted over their sin. They have not despared. They have not wrestled with warranted self-loathing. They have not grieve over their sin because of its moral repugnance, but have grieved only because of guilt feelings and threats of hell.

John Piper, God Is the Gospel (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005), 105.