Key Scriptures: Matthew 14:22-33, Matthew 18:21-22, Luke 22:31-34, Matthew 26:36-46, Luke 22:54-62, John 21:15-17, Acts 2, Luke 19:1-10, Luke 23:34, Proverbs 25:21, Luke 6:27, Proverbs 17:9, Mark 11:25, Matthew 6:45, James 5:16, Colossians 3:13, Luke 17:3-4, I John 1:9, Psalm 103:10-14, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Romans 12:17-21, Ephesians 4:31-32
Guiding Question: As Christians, how should our lives be impacted by forgiveness?
Optional Introductory Activity: Read aloud to the students the children’s book Ruby Bridges Goes to School by Ruby Bridges or let them watch a five minutes YouTube video Robert Coles on Ruby Bridges (Note: it includes live news footage using the “n” word). Ask the students how they would feel if they were in a situation like Ruby Bridges. How hard would it be to forgive the mob?
Lesson: (Questions for the students are in bold italics.) Christianity revolves around forgiveness. Our sins separate us form God and only His forgiveness of those sins can restore our relationships to God and give us the hope of eternal life. Yet forgiveness is difficult to understand and even more difficult at times to forgive others. There are a lot of examples of forgiveness in the Bible, but if you want to know how Jesus dealt with someone who always seemed to be messing up, you need to look at His relationship with Peter. Read Matthew 14:22-33, John 21:20-22, Luke 22:31-34, Matthew 26:36-46, Luke 22:54-62. What are some of the mistakes Peter make? Actually, Peter’s list was probably much longer as many events weren’t recorded in the Bible and Peter was there several times when Jesus corrected all of the apostles. Even if Peter hadn’t made any other mistakes, denying that he knew Jesus would have been enough for most people to be reluctant to forgive him. What did Jesus do after His resurrection though? Read John 21:15-17. Jesus, who had just risen from the dead, took the time to fix Peter breakfast, talk to him, let him know he was forgiven and their relationship was restored. If you had been in Peter’s shoes how would that interaction with Jesus make you feel? We have a clue from what we learn about the rest of Peter’s life in Acts and in I and II Peter. Peter became one of the leading missionaries of the early church. He still made mistakes that needed forgiveness, but Jesus and His forgiveness had changed his life.
So how can forgiveness impact our lives? Forgiveness impacts our lives by how God forgives us and how we forgive others. God connects both of them, but let’s look at them separately for a moment. When God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden, their relationship with Him was perfect. Then Satan entered the picture. Adam and Eve sinned and that sin separated them from God. Life under the Old Covenant given to Moses provided sacrifices and the Day of Atonement as less than perfect ways for people to have their sins forgiven by God. God showed His love for us by planning from the very beginning for the Messiah to come and restore us. Once Jesus died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice and rose from the dead, sacrifices and the Day of Atonement were replaced with new concepts about God’s forgiveness.
- Sins are forgiven at baptism when we become Christians. (Note: Baptism requires us to repent of sins.) Acts 2:38, 22:16
- After baptism, sins are forgiven when we repent an ask God for forgiveness. I John 1:9
- God forgives us with compassion and limitless love. He removes our sins far from us. Psalm 103:1-12
- God forgets our sins He has forgiven. Jeremiah 31:34
- God forgives us in the same way we forgive others. Matthew 6:14-15
That last one is the one that can change everything. In case we try to convince ourselves the way we forgive others doesn’t really impact how God forgives us, Jesus told a parable. Read Matthew 18:21-35. What does Jesus want us to understand about forgiveness from this parable? Jesus and the New Testament writers give us even more information about how we are to forgive others. What do the following scriptures teach us about forgiveness?
- Mark 11:25 (We need to forgive those we have something against.)
- Matthew 6:15 (We need to forgive those who sin/trespass against us.)
- Matthew 18:21-22 (We need to keep forgiving.)
- Colossians 3:13 (We need to forgive those we have complaints against.)
- Luke 17:3-4 (We need to forgive brothers who repent.)
- James 5:16 (We need to honor requests of those who ask us to pray that God forgives them.)
How can we know if we have really forgiven someone? We will talk about this more later, but the Bible does give us a few hints of how we will act and feel if we are forgiving others.
- We will serve them when they need it. Proverb 25:21
- We will do good to them. Luke 6:27
- We will pray for them. Matthew 5:44
- We won’t try to stir up their friends against them. Proverb 17:9
- We won’t try to take revenge. Romans 12:17-21
- We will ignore it when they offend us. Proverb 12:18
- We won’t have bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander or malice in our hearts. Ephesians 4:31-32
- We won’t have the gall (bile secreted in the liver) of bitterness in our hearts. Acts 8:23
- We won’t have hatred toward others. I John 2:9-11
- We won’t have the anger that is found in the “bosom of fools” Ecclesiastes 7:9
- We will remember all have sinned including ourselves. Romans 3:23
Skills Activity: Review the main points of the lesson. Ask the students to share scenarios in their environment that might require them to forgive someone. Encourage them to cover everything from someone that bumps into you in the hall at school to a drunk driver killing someone you love. Record the gist of the scenario so everyone can see them. Ask the students to rank the ease they would have in forgiving someone in that scenario – from “I probably would just ignore it and not get upset” to “I would have a really hard time ever forgiving the person that did that”. Ask the students who seem to find it easier to ignore or forgive wrongs what they think about or do to help them be forgiving. Remind them of scriptures from the lesson. The following tips may also help them as they try to forgive others:
- When thoughts of the person and what they have done to you pop into your head, pray and ask God to help you forgive the person. Then distract yourself with a healthy activity or thoughts.
- Remember forgiving someone is not the same saying they were right to have said or done what upset you.
- Remember someone doesn’t have to ask for your forgiveness in order for you to give it.
- Remember forgiveness is a decision. The release of all of the emotion may take some time.
- Praying for those whom you are trying to forgive makes it easier. So does doing good things for them.
- Remember until you can forgive the person you are looking at the past and dwelling there. It can keep you from moving forward in the like God wants for you.
If your students appear to have one or more wrongs they haven’t forgiven have them write them on a piece of paper. Then build a fire or find a paper shredder and destroy their paper. Encourage them that when ever thoughts of the wrong pop into their head, they should remember destroying those wrongs and immediately pray and ask God to help them forgive.
Application Challenge: Read Genesis 37, 39, 40-45. What did Joseph have to forgive? How was he able to forgive these wrongs? What can you learn from him to help you forgive others?
Author: Thereasa Winnett