(this Bible study is part 3 of a series on repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation)
1. Read a few of the following passages: Matthew 18:21-35, Luke 17:3-4, Luke 6:37, Luke 11:4, Colossians 3:13.
2. Forgiveness appears to be an imperative for a Christian. How would you define "forgiveness"? Here's some ways others define forgiveness: releasing a debt, pardoning a crime, tolerance, setting someone free, bearing another's sin.
3. Forgiveness isn't always easy. Think of times someone's sinned against you. When has it been easy to forgive? When was it hard to forgive? What do you think was the difference?
4. Read Matthew 18:18, John 20:23, and Matthew 6:14-15. Forgiveness appears to be intricately linked to heaven and salvation. Why do you think forgiveness is so important to God's vision of eternity?
5. Read Luke 7:36-50. Jesus connects being forgiven with love. Think of someone who hasn't forgiven you. How do you think being forgiven would change your relationship? Think of someone you haven't forgiven. How do you think forgiven them would change your relationship?
6. Now that you've thought deeply about forgiveness, what steps might you take to truly share forgiveness with someone?
Desmond Tutu has developed a Fourfold Path to Forgiveness:
1. Tell the Story (this is what went wrong)
2. Name the Hurt (this is how it affected and effected me)
3. Grant Forgiveness (I forgive you - you no longer owe me anything)
4. Renew or Release the Relationship (a hug, sharing ice cream, playing together, etc.)
Family / Household Activity
To learn forgiveness, we need a safe place to practice it. Make a pact between each other that for 1 week that will anyone does something wrong, they will listen to each other as they forgive (listening to pain isn't easy). When you need to forgive, find a neutral party (someone in the house other than the person you need to forgive) who can help the you walk Desmond Tutu's Fourfold Path safely.
Warning: Forgiveness takes time. You can't force someone to do it, including yourself. The first two steps on Tutu's Fourfold Path help walk us to forgiveness, but sometimes the distance between step 2 and step 3 is huge. Feel free to say, "I'm not ready to forgive yet. I'll work at it, but I simply can't do it now."
And remember: the flip side of forgiveness is repentance. Feel free to practice repentance too!
On the streets or in the news, you'll often see pictures of people holding signs that say "Repent, the End is Near", "Repent or Perish", or "Repent and Believe or Go To Hell". Based on the imperative to forgive we saw in scripture, imagine a different type of sign. "Forgive, the End is Near", "Forgive or Perish", and "Forgive and Believe or Go To Hell".
If you had signs like that, where would you display them? How do you think people would receive a call to forgiveness? How could you invite people onto the path of forgiveness?