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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!

  1. Helping Your Enemy

    1. Read Exodus 23:4. What would you be inclined to do under these circumstances?

      1. 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?

      2. Why do you think we are given this instruction:

        1. Because we believe in kindness to animals?

        2. Because there is merit to being kind to our enemies?

    2. 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?

    3. 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 find?

      1. 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?

      2. 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?

        1. 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.)

        2. 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.)

          1. Does it help us to turn to the right too? If so, how?

    4. Read Ecclesiastes 7:21-22. Here is an argument for getting hard of hearing! How does this suggest we should handle forgiveness?

      1. Do we have an obligation to avoid looking for insults?

      2. 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.)

  2. God's Example

    1. Read Matthew 5:43-44. Who said you should love your neighbor and hate your enemy? Was that you who said that?

      1. What about your ex-spouse? How to you feel about him/her? Is it love or hate?

      2. What attitude does Jesus tell us that we should have towards our enemies?

      3. Does this attitude depend on our enemy asking for our forgiveness?

        1. Let's just step back from Matthew 5 a minute and read Luke 17:3b. Is forgiveness dependant upon repentance in this verse? (Yes)

        2. Notice that Luke 17:3 deals with "brothers" (believers) and Matthew 5 seems to deal with unbelievers. Does that distinction make a difference?

    2. 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.)

      1. What precisely, is God's example? (God sends sun and rain on both the good and the evil.)

        1. Is this the complete story about how God treats the good and the evil?

        2. 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.)

          1. 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.)

    3. 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 their evildoing.)

      1. Throw in all the texts we have looked at so far. What definition of love for our enemies do you see?

  3. God's Command and Power

    1. 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.)

      1. What is the "downside" of not forgiving someone who causes these resentful feelings? (This suggests that God will not forgive us.)

      2. 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.)

    2. Read Luke 17:4-5. Will you be able to love and forgive in the way the Bible teaches us to love and forgive?

      1. Did the apostles think they were ready to follow the high standard Jesus taught them? (No.)

      2. What did the apostles think they needed to follow Jesus' teaching? (More faith.)

    3. 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.

  4. 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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