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Forgiving Our Enemies

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FORGIVING OUR ENEMIES 

Scripture: 1 Samuel 26:1–25; Matthew 5:44, 6:14, 18:21–22; Mark 11:25–26

Memory verse: Ephesians 4:32
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

Lead—In

Ask: What is the meaning of the word “enemy?” Who do you consider to be your enemy? What is the meaning of the word “forgive?” Have you ever forgiven an enemy?

Hearing God’s Word

Over 20 years ago a heartbreaking story hit the front pages of the newspapers. The Auca Indians had killed five missionaries. For weeks the missionaries had been dropping presents to the Auca Indians from their plane.

Even though the men knew the tribe had killed all strangers for centuries, they were determined to try to reach them for Jesus. As Jim Elliott, one of the missionaries, had said, “Our orders are to take the gospel to every creature.” They had set out to do just that, but their lives ended tragically. The five godly men were killed.

Some people probably thought the missionaries’ lives had been wasted. Not long after the incident, another story appeared in the papers. This story was not brutal, but unbelievable. The wives of the slain missionaries decided to remain in Ecuador to carry on the work their husbands started. They wanted to reach the Auca natives and try to convert the same people who had killed their husbands.

How could anyone feel such forgiveness? Why would they bother? The answers to these questions are the topic of our lesson this week.

Ask: “If someone had tried several times to kill you and was causing you to live in hiding, how would you feel toward him?”  (Allow responses.)

A natural response would be one of anger and revenge. It would be beyond our human abilities to be loving and kind toward a person like that.

Saul Hates David

David was faced with this situation. King Saul was jealous of David because of his popularity with the people. David had become a good warrior and the people treated him as a hero. Saul began hating David so much, he looked for ways to have David killed. In desperation David ran for his life.

Back in Old Testament times when the law was “an eye for an eye” or “do to others as they have done to you,” it would have seemed fair for David to take revenge on Saul. One night David had a chance to do this. The Bible tells us about it in 1 Samuel 26.

David and his men were hiding from Saul. But Saul was in hot pursuit and set up camp nearby. When David heard this, he and his helper Abishai went to check out the report.

A Chance for Revenge

When David arrived, he saw Saul’s army sleeping soundly. Here was his chance to get revenge! Quietly he and Abishai entered the camp and carefully walked around the sleeping men. At last they stood right next to Saul. Beside the sleeping king was his sharp spear. What a perfect opportunity they had!

Abishai was eager to help David. He knew how cruelly Saul had treated David. Excitedly, Abishai asked for permission to kill Saul.

David Shows Forgiveness

What was David’s response? (Ask a student to read 1 Samuel 26:9,10.) “Do him no harm,” David said. “Let God take care of the situation in His own time and way.” Instead of taking Saul’s life, David took Saul’s spear and water jar. Then the two men left the camp.

When they were a safe distance away, David shouted to Saul’s guard. “Where are the king’s spear and water jar?”

When Saul awoke and realized he owed his life to David, his heart was softened. David had shown forgiveness toward him, even though he didn’t deserve it. Even when he had a perfect opportunity to get even with Saul for all he had done, David showed love and forgiveness instead.

Forgiveness Requires an Attitude Change

David’s response is opposite of the way most people would have reacted.

Ask: “How can a person become willing to forgive as David did?” (Allow responses.)

Forgiveness begins as an attitude, a desire to get rid of bad feelings against someone. Sometimes this doesn’t happen immediately. Satan attacks us at our weakest points, and he will try to stir up those feelings as much as possible. But God is more powerful than Satan. As we continue to look to God, He will replace those bad feelings with love.

We may still remember the wrongs someone did to us, but we hold no harsh, resentful feelings against that person. When we have no wish to hold a grudge against a person or see him punished for what he did, we have reached the first step in showing true forgiveness. We cannot replace bad feelings in our own strength. We must pray daily and depend on God to do the work.

Forgiveness Is Shown By Actions

Feeling forgiveness toward others is an important first step. But in order to act as a Christian should, we must go one step further. (Ask a student to read Matthew 5:44.) We must not only feel forgiveness, we must show it by our actions.

Some of you might be thinking, why should I forgive a person who has done wrong to me? You will find answers in the Bible. There are three basic reasons.

Reasons to Forgive

One major reason we should forgive is stated in our memory verse this week. (Repeat the verse together several times.)

We should forgive others because Jesus forgave us. His life is a perfect example for us to follow. In fact, the word Christian means “follower of Christ.” People who stand for what is right, as David did, often have enemies. Jesus had many who hated Him. Jesus’ enemies finally succeeded in sending Him to the cross. But in spite of His unjust treatment, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV).  Our first reason, then for forgiving is because Jesus did.

(Ask various students to read Matthew 5:7; Matthew 6:14; Mark 11:25.)

Ask: “What do these verses tell us about showing forgiveness?” (Allow responses.)

God cannot forgive us unless we forgive others. God’s love cannot fill our hearts when they are already full of hate and anger toward someone.

Finally, we should forgive so we can be witnesses of God’s love. Everyone can show love to a friend. But when a person shows love to an enemy, that is different. People notice; they can hardly believe it. This is when Christianity makes people want what we have.

Forgiving Time After Time

By this time all of us would agree that forgiveness is important.

Ask: How often should we forgive someone? Is there a limit on the number of times we are expected to forgive the same person for the same thing?  (Allow responses.)

Peter asked Jesus that very question one day. What was Jesus’ answer?  (Ask a student to read Matthew 18:22.)

Ask: “Do you think Jesus meant we should forgive a man 490 times, then refuse on the 491st time?”  (Allow responses.)

No. This was Jesus’ way of saying forgiveness has no limits. Just as Jesus always forgives us, we should forgive others. God has shown us mercy; we should show mercy to others.

Forgive Those Who Do Not Deserve It

Forgiving when someone asks forgiveness is not very hard most of the time. But how can you forgive someone who does not even ask and just goes on doing mean things to you?

The answer will not be found in simply trying harder. We can’t forgive others in our own strength because forgiving is not natural. We must ask God to help us change our bad feelings into good ones. It is a team effort between us and God. We must want to forgive and pray for help. Then, God will answer our prayer and give us strength to do what is right. If we do our part, we can be sure God will do His part. When God is on our side, we are sure to win!

Accepting God’s Word

Remind the class that we can forgive others when they wrong us because Jesus has forgiven us. Jesus had provided for the forgiveness of all our sin. Explain the plan of salvation:  Admit you have sinned; Believe Jesus is God’s Son who died for your sin; Confess your sin to Jesus.  (Pray individually with those who want to accept Jesus as their Saviour.

The Great Fisherman 

I shall never forget my first visit to Kayor, a legendary Wolof fishing village located one hour north of Dakar, Senegal. The men were unloading the catch of the day from their long, narrow, brightly painted boats. The assortment of sea bass, capitan, dorade and flounder was an impressive sight! Waiting there on the beach was the fishermen’s imam to pronounce blessings on the catch.

I soon learned that these tall Wolofs account for one-third of Senegal’s population, yet the Wolof language is spoken by more than two-thirds of all Senegalese. The Wolof dominate national life and speak openly about being "the ones" who sold other Africans to the European slave traders.

To be Wolof is to be Muslim! Their religion is a source of both pride and entrenchment.

While these fishermen gladly took our money for their fish, they were and remain resistant to Christian influences. However, the New Testament and parts of the Old Testament are now in Wolof and Arabic script.

While a few Wolof have believed, the day will come when the "Great Fisherman" will break through the overall resistance. When that happens, the Wolof will lead the way once more...this time into faith.

REMEMBER TO PRAY!

Pray for Wolof Fishermen

1. Wolof fishermen to identify with the disciples of Jesus who were fishermen,
2. Messengers to identify characteristics of fishermen that could be used to communicate the gospel,
3. Many Wolof to put their trust in Jesus Christ and become fishers of people; their people who need to hear the gospel and be saved.

Prayer Promise

"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you" (John 15:7).

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Study 12 | Jesus is Worthy/Witnessing | africaatts.org/go-teach

 

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