The BIG IDEA
God calls us to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us. We are hypocrites if we accept Christ’s forgiveness for our own sins, but don’t extend our own forgiveness to others.
We don’t want to forgive others and would rather hold on to our hurt. We think that if we forgive them, it will release them from the responsibility of what they have done. We view offering them forgiveness as a gift to them—letting them off the hook. Instead, it is an opportunity that God has given us to experience freedom from the bitterness of unforgiveness.
Once we realize how much God has forgiven us we can, in turn, forgive others for what they do against us. Because Christ forgave us, we can have the same heart of forgiveness when others wrong us.
Why THIS MATTERS
We live in a sinful world and will have the opportunity to forgive many times in our lives. If we don’t learn to forgive others as Christ forgave us, we will be held captive to our own hurt and bitterness. By forgiving us, Christ has shown us how to forgive others. He has freed us to have the same heart of forgiveness when we are wronged by others. Please note, this study could bring up some significant pain for some of your students (abuse, abandonment, betrayal). Please be in prayer for them as you prepare for this study.
I want my students to…
- KNOW: Because we have been forgiven much by Jesus, we have been called and empowered to forgive those who have hurt us.
- EXPERIENCE: The freedom of forgiving others and the desire to forgive those who have wronged us.
- DO: Forgive those who have wronged us and be released from hurt and bitterness.
- Be aware that this could be deep
- Help them make the connection that Jesus has paid a big price for their sins
- Bring out the Image
- Make the Holy Spirit Connection
- Help them make it practical
The idea box is a place where you can find some creative ideas for leading this study. You might find videos, activities, or great illustrations that really bring the main point home. The ideas come from small group leader like you, so if you have an idea that isn’t in there, click below to share it with the community!
*WHAT DO YOU THINK?
*“Three years ago a drunk driver crashed into my Mom’s car. Mom died, the other guy lived. He is serving time in prison and recently wrote to me asking for my forgiveness. I just don’t know if I can, or if I even want to.” What advice would you give to this person?
WHAT DOES GOD SAY ABOUT THIS?
*1. Today we are going to look at what Jesus said about forgiveness. Read Matthew 18:21–35. What was the first servant’s problem?
He owed the king a lot of money and he was to be sold along with his wife and children and all they had in order to pay off his debt. If your version of the Bible doesn’t say this, let them know that the first servant’s debt was worth millions of today’s dollars.
*2. Why was the first servant forgiven?
- Would you have forgiven him?
He humbled himself before the king and begged for the master to have pity on him. The master decided to extend forgiveness to the first servant totally out of his own mercy. The servant never would have been able to repay the huge debt. Allow the group to discuss whether they would have forgiven him or not. Bring up the amount in today’s currency again—millions of dollars.
3. Based on the king’s actions in verse 27, what does it mean to forgive another person?
Forgiving means to completely release someone. If money is owed, it means erasing that debt. If you are holding a grudge against them, it means completely forgiving them and letting go of that grudge. It is a choice to never hold that action or debt against them again. In some cases, if the person cannot be trusted, it is possible to forgive past actions, but not put them in a position to hurt you again. You can still forgive past actions even if you don’t trust that person in the future. (The king may not lend the first servant money ever again, but he can still forgive the debt that is owed).
*4. In verse 28, what is wrong with how the first servant treated the second servant? What was the king’s response?
He grabbed him and began to choke him, demanding to be paid back. Then he refused to have compassion on the man and had him thrown into prison. When the king heard this he turned the first servant over to the jailers to be tortured until he paid back all he had owed. Note that the second servant’s debt was worth a few thousand dollars in today’s money.
5. How is the Master in the story like God?
There could be a lot of different answers to this question. Here are a few… Just like the master in the story, God forgives people even when the debt is huge. He is also in charge of everything, just like the Master. He is a defender of the weak. He is capable of dealing out harsh judgement on disobedient people. Note that his harsh judgement of the first servant was an act of mercy toward the second servant.
HOW DO WE APPLY THIS TO OUR LIVES?
6. How are we sometimes like the first servant?
When we do something wrong, we often expect compassion and understanding from others. However, when the tables are turned, and we are the ones being wronged, we are often unwilling to forgive and show compassion.
*7. Why is it sometimes hard for us to forgive others?
When we are hurt we often want the other person to pay and forgiving them may seem like giving them a pass and saying what they did is okay. Our sinful pride makes us think we are the center of the universe, which means life is really all about us! It tells us that we should get what we want and be able to do what we want!
8. In the story, the master forgave the servant for the millions of dollars that he owed. What has Christ forgiven you for?
Ask for ideas and even share something from your own life to get the discussion going. Not having love for others or telling a lie are common reasons for needing to be forgiven. Try to get more out of your students than just, “my sins”. Encourage them to begin naming their sins. Allow the sins to begin to “build up” by asking, “What else?” and by adding your own sins. We aren’t looking for students to be embarrassed or share more than they want to, but we do want them to recognize that they are pretty sinful and are more like the first servant than the second servant.
9. In verses 32–33, the king was angry at the first servant for not forgiving a small debt when he had forgiven the first servant of a very large debt. How does this remind you to extend forgiveness to those around you?
When we consider the extent that Jesus Christ went to in order to accomplish our forgiveness, even though we definitely did not deserve it, we can become like the king and want to extend mercy to others who do not deserve it either.
*10. Look at the picture at the top of the page. How is not forgiving others like being in prison?
Often, people who have wronged us do not know how they have hurt us, or do not care. Some are even mean-spirited and are glad they hurt us. Releasing this hurt to God and asking him to take care of us can bring freedom and health. We can become prisoners of hurt, anger, and the need for revenge when we hang on to unforgiveness. When we don’t forgive, we think that we are hurting the other person, but we are actually only hurting ourselves. Note: the image on this study is a man behind bars. Point out that the person behind bars isn’t the person who needs to be forgiven, but the person who needs to forgive.
11. According to this story, what are some things that could motivate us to forgive people who hurt us?
When we consider how much God loves us and how he provided forgiveness for us when we did not deserve it, a desire can be created in us to be like him and to forgive others. Knowing that he also loves those who hurt us gives a different perspective when we are angry and want revenge. We can forgive much because he has forgiven us much.
*12. The Holy Spirit is the source of our power to live the Christian life. How can the Holy Spirit help us to forgive others?
Remind the group that the Holy Spirit is God who lives in us and gives us the power to live the Christian life. We cannot forgive others in a healthy way by just trying really hard or wishing it to be true. As believers with the Holy Spirit living in us, we can ask him for power to forgive those who have wronged us. We can ask him to love others through us, even when we don’t feel like it.
*13. Who do you need to forgive?
- What makes it hard to do?
- If you feel comfortable, share with the group your plans to forgive someone.
Encourage them to share, but caution against using names if it would cause further hurt or create gossip.
*PRAY: Lead your students in prayer to forgive those they are having a hard time forgiving. Pray that the Holy Spirit would give them the power to let go of their hurt and anger and release it to God.
Our review cards are an excellent way to review your past lessons with your students before each study. Not every lesson has one yet but if we have them, you can find them on the PRINT page. Check them out and use them each week to help your students grab hold of the truths in these studies.
What ideas do you have that could improve this study? Are there creative things you do to bring this topic home to your students? Please share with the community clicking the FEEDBACK button or leaving a comment below.