The Fog of War and the Gospel of Peace

By: Brian Borgman

As a pastor, I spend a good amount of time trying to help people reconcile. The Apostle Paul had the same issues in his day (Phil. 4:2-3). Reconciliation is common and necessary because interpersonal conflict is a reality in a fallen world. We sin against each other, we offend each other, and there can be breaches among God’s people, yes, breaches among those indwelt by the same Spirit and loving the same Lord.

It comes as no surprise that offenses can often be exaggerated, or even made up. An exaggerated offense is one where the offense is real, but overall insignificant. An offense can become exaggerated when we think too highly of ourselves. Made-up offenses are offenses that have no basis in reality. They are not usually maliciously made up, but there is misperception and misinterpretation of words or actions. We are always interpreting and our interpretation is not always accurate. We easily misinterpret. Whether the offense is real, real but exaggerated, or only perceived, the breach is still a breach and it is tragic.

The good news is that when interpersonal conflict occurs it is an opportunity for the Gospel to shine. The conflict provides a platform for Christ to be cherished and displayed. However, Christians can often ignore the Gospel under these circumstances. Dave Harvey in his book, When Sinners Say I Do, talks about the “fog of war.” The fog of war is a reference to the clouded perspective that invades our minds and hearts amid conflict. We become so focused on the conflict or the hurt that our vision is narrowed and we don’t want to see anything else. This is the recipe for bitterness.

The only way interpersonal conflict can become an opportunity for the Gospel is if we can allow the rays of the light of God’s Word to burn off the fog. Here are some ways we can burn off the fog:

When you’re the offended party

If the offense was against us, we need to view the person who sinned against us as sinner in need of God’s grace. Too often we see the offender as an enemy who treated us in a way that we did not deserve. We need to understand, this person is not an enemy, this person is a sinner who sinned against me. But I too am a sinner, who sins and who desperately needs grace. When I know that about myself and know that about the other person, the fog can begin to lift.

As a sinner myself, I need to examine myself, looking to see what log is in my eye (Matt. 7:3-5). I need to check my own heart for pride. Why am I so angry over this offense? Our anger over an offense can be nothing more than our pride, an idol of respect or esteem, that was knocked over. This helps us put the offense in perspective. I am not innocent in the matter. I contributed somehow. My reaction has also been sinful. As I deal with myself first, the sunlight of God’s Word starts to burn off some of the fog.

Next, If I am a recipient of grace then I am under obligation to extend grace (Eph. 4:32). How do I do this? I need to seriously look at the offense. Can it be covered in love? (1 Pet. 4:8). Did I overreact? Have I exaggerated the offense? Is there a chance I misinterpreted the apparent offense? Perhaps I should give the person the benefit of the doubt. If any of these things are true, I can cover it in love. If it was a real offense that was a clear violation of God’s Word, then I need to go to the person in love (Matt. 18:15-17). This is not negotiable. If the offense cannot be covered in love, then I must go in love. The purpose of me going to the person must be reconciliation and repentance. I must be ready not just to confront, but to own up to my own sinfulness in the event. I must realize that if I don’t go when I should go, all I do is set the table for a bitterness banquet in my own heart. Bitterness is simply not an option (Heb. 12:15).

What if the person does not respond the way I think he should? What if she doesn’t own up to every jot and tittle? What if he doesn’t see things exactly the way I do? Again, we must beware of our own pride. We need to be concerned with truth, but we also need to be ready for grace. Over the years I have rarely found that two people see the event in the same way. Part of it is our own sinfulness. But part of it is sometimes just different perspectives, different priorities or different convictions. When we believe the person is trying to deal honestly with us and is not resisting repentance, then we need some latitude on how much agreement is necessary. Agreement is important (Phil. 4:2), but total agreement may not be possible. At some point, I need to value reconciliation over being right in every detail.

I also need to have an attitude of forgiveness, being ready to quickly forgive. Forgiveness is hardly optional (Matt. 6:12, 14; 18:21-35). We should be eager to forgive. Such eagerness is like a breeze that disperses the fog.

When you’re the offender

If we find that we are the offender, real or perceived, what shall we do? There are things we can do to help burn off the fog. We can begin by trying to understand the other person’s complaint. If we are quick to defend ourselves, we are not listening well (Jas. 1:19). I do not think that confessing to sins that we did not commit is helpful because it is not truthful, but we should be willing to accept whatever we did do and keep in mind that we may have done more than our own sinful hearts think we did (Jer. 17:9).

We need to specifically ask for forgiveness and not simply and lamely say, “I apologize” or “I am sorry.” Confession, asking for forgiveness and repentance are vital for reconciliation.

What if there is an impasse? 

It is rare for two people to come together who want to honor Christ through reconciliation not to reconcile. It is rare for two people who have humbled themselves before God and each other not to come to peace. But on occasion, there may be an impasse. If so, can the other person and I agree to disagree, but still be reconciled? Can I say, ‘I understand that you sincerely do not see it the way I see it, and before God, I accept that and want to move on’? If the other person and I cannot come to that kind of gracious conclusion, then it may be wise to seek a mediator, a wise, mature, godly person. But be forewarned, inviting that person in means that it may not go the way you think it should go (Prov. 18:17). That person may see things you have been blind to and you must be willing to submit to their counsel.

Brothers and sisters, we have been saved by the Prince of Peace through the Gospel of Peace. We are called to live in peace with each other. Let’s not allow the fog of war to overshadow the Gospel of peace.

Always Go to the Wedding

Every local church should be a wonderful expression of the body of Christ, the family of God. The church, in fact, should be a family. When it functions like a family, it rejoices with those who rejoice and mourns with those who mourn. One “mournful” event is of course a funeral. One time one of my kids said they weren’t going to someone’s funeral because “I really didn’t know him.” I told them that was irrelevant, the conviction ought to be “Always go to the funeral.” (Read here for an excellent piece from NPR of all places! There are so many good reasons, personal and corporate, to go the funeral. But that is for another time.
The big joyful event in the life of the church is a wedding. As a church family, one, or two, of our own, are being joined together in marriage. Some may say, “Well, I don’t know so-and-so, so I am not going.” Let me urge you to have the conviction, “Always go to the wedding.”
This Saturday at 1PM Becky Grabow and Brad Goins are going to be married. Let me tell you why you should go.
1.    Becky Grabow was the first baby born at Grace Community Church. Her family has been quiet stalwarts at Grace since its inception. This is a big day for them. Share their joy. Brad is newer to Grace, but has been here for a few years, with mom, Sandy, and brother, Grant. Make them feel part of the family. Brad and Becky are outstanding, strong Christians. Saturday is a joyful day for them. You should go to the wedding so you can rejoice with those who rejoice.
2.    As this young Christian couple starts out their marriage, your presence at the wedding ceremony is an encouragement to them. You are taking on the role of a witness to their covenant with God and each other. The ministry of being present is often overlooked today. If I am not “performing” I don’t need to go is the frequent sentiment. But there is an encouraging ministry of just being present, being a witness.
3.    The ceremony itself is a celebration of God’s grace, God’s providence and Christ’s Gospel. The ceremony itself, especially the vows, remind us of the solemnity of marriage as a Divine institution, which can spur us on in pursuing our Christ-centered marriages. It also points us to the final Wedding Feast of the Lamb. There won’t be any funerals in heaven, but there will be wedding!
4.    Sometimes single people don’t like going to weddings because they want to be married but are not. Sometimes people with painful marriages avoid weddings because it stirs up all their disappointment with their own marriages. We really should not be governed by such self-absorbed principles, we should instead be putting others above ourselves in the humility of Christ.
There are other reasons for going, but I think these are good ones.  I hope, because of your love for the family of God, you have the conviction, “Always go to the funeral…. Always go to the wedding.” If you are providentially hindered, look for ways to express your congratulations and encouragement to them.
Glad I’m a part of the family of God,


What Are You Going to Read This New Year?

By: Brian Borgman

New Years is a great time to reset your resolve and set your sights on spiritual pursuits. We are commanded to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:16). Reading is an important part of the growth process. Let me give you some unasked for advice about reading.

If you struggle with reading, start by reading Gene Veith’s booklet, Why God Gave Us a Book (available in the bookroom). God speaks to us through His Word. If we are not in His Word daily, then who are we really listening to? Our own hearts? (Scary!) The media? Our favorite pundit?

We need to hear from God. We hear from Him when the Word is taught and preached. We hear from Him when we read His Word, meditate on it and hide it in our hearts. Here is my annual plug for a reading plan. Why a reading plan? Because reading plans (1) keep us disciplined and (2) they help us to read the Word widely. If left to ourselves, to just read wherever “we feel led” we will be led to sporadic reading and that in a rather disconnected way. Choose a plan that is suitable for you. There are many to choose from and we provide some for you every year.

So our first and foremost priority needs to be reading God’s Word. We should be people of the book. But we should also be reading books that supplement our understanding and edify us. The Reformation got people reading. In the Puritan era, people became readers. Reading Christian books is a part of our wonderful heritage.

If you struggle finding time to read, be creative in redeeming the time to read. If we are proactive and accustomed to taking a book with us when we are out and about, we will find 10 minutes here and 20 minutes there. Also, keep a reading project strategically located in key locations. Keep a devotional book with your Bible so that you can get a few minutes every day.

But also choose books that will feed your soul. I am currently loving both Ichthus: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior by Sinclair Ferguson and Derek Thomas and Knowing Christ by Mark Jones. Both titles are published by Banner of Truth. Both books are a delight because they focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. They are devotionally written. Of course, there are other reading projects that we should take up. If I were to create a “Christian’s Must Read” list, it would look something like this:

  • J.I. Packer, Knowing God
  • J.C. Ryle, Holiness
  • John Owen, Sin and Temptation
  • John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress
  • Calvin’s Institutes
  • John Piper, Desiring God and The Pleasures of God
  • Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections
  • Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness and Trusting God
  • And an assortment of Christian biographies (I give a big bibliography in Feelings and Faith).

Be careful and don’t waste time reading books that won’t edify. Generally, avoid Christian books that are on best-sellers list. Generally, fluff and/or heresy. Spend your time on proven books and proven authors. If a certain author writes a new book, I will buy it out of principle, because of their track record (that list is pretty short for me: D.A. Carson, Tom Schreiner, Doug Moo, John Piper, J.I. Packer, Sinclair Ferguson, John Frame to name a few. I also keep my eyes out for reprints of classic works and new Greek grammars!).

So this new year, set your sights on some reading goals. Make them modest. Prioritize the Bible. Select a good book and stick with it. May 2016 be a year filled with hearing from God and learning more about Him and His ways.