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Steps to Forgiveness

Aim: For each child to learn how to seek forgiveness from others and from God

Core Competency: Peace

Objectives: The children will

  • Understand the steps to requesting forgiveness from another
  • Seek forgiveness from God
  • Give God all praise for the peace that comes from forgiveness

Key Verse: ...First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. ( Matthew 5:24 )

Story: "Jacob Seeks Esau's Forgiveness " ( Genesis 33 )

Materials Required:

  • jar, about 3 times taller than a soda can
  • soda cans (assorted)

Eye on Science:

Advance Preparation:None, but each can should be tested to verify in advance that the diet drinks float and the non-diet drinks sink. If a non-diet drink floats, try other cans; this may be caused by an under-filled can.

Just before class, fill the jar almost to the top with water.

In Class:Tell the story of a father in Spain who had a teenaged son named Paco. Paco wanted more independence than his father would permit, and finally rebelled and left home. His distraught father sought him for several months without success. Finally, the father placed an advertisement in the Madrid newspaper: "Dear Paco, please meet me in front of the main post office at noon. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father."

The next day at noon, the man approach the main post office and was surprised to see about 800 young men, all named Paco, hoping that it was their father who wanted to forgive and welcome them back home.

Point out that everyone makes mistakes, and at some point each child present will need to seek the forgiveness of another. Use the story of Jacob and Esau to illustrate the steps in seeking forgiveness.

  1. Humility - When seeking forgiveness, do not try to justify your actions or share blame with the other person. Rather, be humble and assume all of the blame. Jacob bowed down 7 times to his brother to demonstrate his humility and willingness to assume responsibility for his deceit ( Genesis 33:3 ).
  2. Ask - Request forgiveness plainly ("Please forgive me, I was wrong") rather than indirectly ("Sorry if you were offended"). When Esau asked why he had met the herds of animals that preceded Jacob, Jacob replied, "To find favor in your eyes, my lord" ( Genesis 33:8 ) - a clear request for forgiveness.
  3. Restore - As much as possible, make the offense right. If you broke a friend's toy, buy her a replacement. If you told a lie to a mutual friend, admit to that friend that you lied. Although Jacob could not restore the birthright to Esau (because God had already given it to Jacob), he did offer extensive wealth to Esau as a token replacement ( Genesis 33:11 ).
  4. Praise God - Ensure that any credit for the restored friendship goes to God, and not to you. Never remind your friend that you asked for forgiveness "last time". Jacob told Esau that receiving his forgiveness was like "seeing the face of God" ( Genesis 33:10 ).

With a smile, point out that some children may never have offended anyone, and thus may not need to seek forgiveness "yet". However, those children can still put these steps to use.

Show the jar of water and the soda cans. Announce that this experiment is called "Sink or Swim" - each can will be placed in the water to determine if it floats or if it sinks. Let the children take turns selecting a can, then vote on whether they think it will float or sink. Add as much drama to each test as you can, plus a little humor ("Well done, though good and faithful soda can" to one that floats, and "broad is the path to the bottom of the tank" to one that sinks). Set all "floaters" on one side of the table, and "sinkers" on the other.

Once all cans have been tested, ask the children what determined if a can floated or sunk. The correct answer, of course, is the presence of sugar. Diet drinks float because they have no sugar. Sugary drinks sink because of the weight of the sugar.

Compare the sugar to sin (disobeying God). Sin will "pull us down" and keep us from knowing God. Emphasize that to remove the sin, we must seek God's forgiveness in exactly the same way as we discussed earlier.

  1. Humility - We must admit that we are sinners ( Romans 3:23 ) and cannot save ourselves ( Ephesians 2:8-9 ).
  2. Ask - We must specifically ask Jesus to forgive our sins ( Romans 10:13 ).
  3. Restore - We must return our life to God our Creator ( Romans 12:1 ).
  4. Praise God - We must publicly confess Jesus as our Savior rather than our own good works ( Romans 10:9 ).

By seeking forgiveness of others, we become a peacemaker with a reputation as God's children ( Matthew 5:9 ). By seeking God's forgiveness, we experience peace in our life ( Romans 5:1 ). We are free from anxiety because things are now right between God, others and ourselves.

Application: Have you specifically admitted your sin to God and asked His forgiveness? If not, will you do this today? From whom do you need to seek forgiveness this week?

Used: KIDZ 6/98 , BSF 1/99 , BSF 3/01 , KIDZ 09/02

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