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Sabbath School Lessons on The Forgiven
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 37 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 10: Why Forgive? *
Introduction: "I'll forgive, but I will not forget." Have you ever
found yourself saying that? Should we forget as well as forgive? Or,
is forgetting being foolish? What about the saying, "Fool me once,
shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." How do these worldly
sayings relate to the teachings of the Bible? Are we required as
Christians to do more than simply forgive? Let's dive into our Bible
study and find out!
- Helping Your Enemy
- Read Exodus 23:4. What would you be inclined to do under
- What would be wrong with just tying the ox or donkey
up and letting the owner find him? After all, you
have made the job of finding the animal easier. Why
do you have to bring it back to your enemy?
- Why do you think we are given this instruction:
- Because we believe in kindness to animals?
- Because there is merit to being kind to our
- Read Exodus 23:5. Not only is your enemy a bad fellow (of
course), but he is stupid when it comes to overloading his
donkey. Who is the "him" in "be sure to help him with it"
- the donkey or your stupid enemy? Why should we be
helping bad and stupid people?
- Read Proverbs 25:21-22. Here is a similar piece of advice.
We are told to help our enemy. However, in this text we
are given a reason to help our enemy. What reasons do you
- Let's take the easier one first: God will reward us.
Why do you think God rewards us for helping our
enemy? Why does God have an interest in this?
- The second reason to help our enemy is that it "heaps
burning coals on his head." Sounds excellent to me!
Great idea. However, since we are not actually
burning up our enemies, what do you think this means?
- Will their heads start hurting? (Actually, yes.
I think the idea is that your enemy will start
feeling bad because he has been evil and you
have been good. One commentary mentioned that we
might be "melting" our enemy.)
- Let's just stop for a minute. If we are supposed
to be doing good for our enemies, then why are
we so glad to have them feel bad because we are
pouring on the "hot coals?" (I guess it is "OK"
to create this type of pain for our enemy
because it helps him to turn to the right.)
- Does it help us to turn to the right too?
If so, how?
- Read Ecclesiastes 7:21-22. Here is an argument for getting
hard of hearing! How does this suggest we should handle
- Do we have an obligation to avoid looking for
- What argument is made in these verses for
overlooking, or not taking too seriously, complaints
by our helpers? (Part of a forgiving spirit is to be
understanding. This text reminds us that we may have
said harsh things about others in the past. We need
to remember our own past actions when others say
harsh things about us.)
- God's Example
- Read Matthew 5:43-44. Who said you should love your
neighbor and hate your enemy? Was that you who said that?
- What about your ex-spouse? How to you feel about
him/her? Is it love or hate?
- What attitude does Jesus tell us that we should have
towards our enemies?
- Does this attitude depend on our enemy asking for our
- Let's just step back from Matthew 5 a minute and
read Luke 17:3b. Is forgiveness dependant upon
repentance in this verse? (Yes)
- Notice that Luke 17:3 deals with "brothers"
(believers) and Matthew 5 seems to deal with
unbelievers. Does that distinction make a
- Let's continue on with Matthew 5:45-48. Read. What reason
does Jesus give for this command that goes against our
natural instincts? (If we want to be children of God, we
need to follow His example.)
- What precisely, is God's example? (God sends sun and
rain on both the good and the evil.)
- Is this the complete story about how God treats
the good and the evil?
- Quickly review Judges 2:11-15. What do you say
about Jesus' comments about how God treats those
who are evil? (Jesus is not giving us a full
explanation of God's attitude towards evil when
He describes the weather.)
- What was God's purpose in Judges 2? (You
can see that the general purpose of God
was to turn the evildoers back to Him,
back to obedience.)
- As you compare Matthew 5:45 with Judges 2:11-15, how would
you conclude we should approach our enemies? What does
showing "love" for our enemies mean? (My approach to the
Bible is to say that every part of it is true. In
particular, I certainly would not discount the words of
Jesus! The word "love" in our Matthew 5 text means to
"love in a social or moral sense." (Strong's) When we add
this to the weather illustration, it seems that we should
do to our enemies what we would do to anyone. We conclude
we should not try to injure them or neglect to help them
if we would help anyone else. Even in Judges 2:18 we see
that God had compassion upon the evildoers. In an attempt
to bring the people into a right relationship with Him,
God did not tolerate wrong-doing. From this I conclude
that love means we can address the specific evil acts of
evildoers. On the other hand, we should not treat those
who are evil differently when it comes to matters outside
- Throw in all the texts we have looked at so far. What
definition of love for our enemies do you see?
- God's Command and Power
- Read Mark 11:25. How do we know when we need to forgive
someone? What is the "test" that Jesus gives? ("If you
hold anything against anyone." This means that if you feel
resentful and upset towards someone, then that is
something you need to forgive.)
- What is the "downside" of not forgiving someone who
causes these resentful feelings? (This suggests that
God will not forgive us.)
- Let's discuss this in the context of what we just
learned about treating our enemies as God treats
them. If you see your enemy's animal running away,
what attitude should be in your heart? (If you have
forgiven your enemy, then the resentful feeling
should be gone. That causes you to do for your enemy
what you would do for anyone who is in need.)
- Read Luke 17:4-5. Will you be able to love and forgive in
the way the Bible teaches us to love and forgive?
- Did the apostles think they were ready to follow the
high standard Jesus taught them? (No.)
- What did the apostles think they needed to follow
Jesus' teaching? (More faith.)
- Friend, how about you? Do you love your enemies? Do you
readily forgive those who hurt you and cause you to feel
resentful? Jesus creates a very high standard for us that
runs counter to our human nature. The solution to our
failings in this area is to repent and ask Jesus to give
us the faith to follow His teaching.
- Next Week: Out of the Heart
* Copr. 2003, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.