When it comes to teaching ninth grade girls, I never know exactly what to expect from my girls during our Sunday morning lessons. There are times when they would much rather be on their phones than engage in conversation with the group, and then other times they will blow my mind with how much they interact with the lesson and offer incredible, spiritual insight.
Recently, we walked through the concept of Biblical forgiveness, and I can honestly say it was one of the times when my girls were completely engaged throughout the entire lesson. It wasn’t because the lesson was somehow written more creatively than the others or that it was spiritually light. In fact, it was rich in deep, Biblical truths that even adults often have to wrestle with. These girls were just desperate to know more.
At one point, with no prompt from me or my co-leader, the girls started sharing about the people they were having a hard time forgiving. Family members, parents, past boyfriends, friends. It wasn’t a lighthearted conversation by any means. And while we spent the first half of the morning together talking about why we should forgive (Jesus forgiving us being the primary example), the question that the girls kept asking over and over again was: How?
I know why I should forgive, but how?
How do I forgive?
How do I forgive someone who doesn’t even know they need to be forgiven?
How can I forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it?
I could hear it in their voices—these girls were desperate to experience forgiveness. And I desperately wanted to show them and teach them how, but I didn’t feel equipped to answer it. Thankfully, God’s Word was right in front of us and I had the advantage of a lesson provided by my church staff to guide me.
Today, I want to share some Scripture and highlights from that lesson, so you can feel more equipped to walk with your girls through true, Biblical forgiveness.
Then Peter approached him and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times?” I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven. For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle accounts, one who owed ten thousand talents was brought before him. Since he did not have the money to pay it back, his master commanded that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt. At this, the servant fell facedown before him and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything’ Then the master of that servant had compassion, released him, and forgave him the loan. —Matthew 18:21-27
This passage of Scripture reveals three things that we can use to offer Biblical forgiveness for those who have hurt us:
1. Identify the person who has hurt you.
In order to embrace forgiveness as God desires, our girls must acknowledge that there was someone who hurt them. That person (the debtor) may not even realize they’ve caused hurt (or they may not even care), but we cannot teach our girls to pretend like it didn’t happen. As painful as that may be, they must recognize the person they need to forgive. I also told my girls that we often associate the wrong people with our own bitterness, which is why it is so important to acknowledge the actual person who has caused us hurt or grief, so we stop resenting people who haven’t actually hurt us.
2. Identify what they owe you.
I’m going to take a guess that the people your girls need to forgive don’t owe them a large sum of money. It is much more likely that the debt they are experiencing isn’t something that can ever be repaid and looks more like emotional and mental damage than physical. Our girls need to voice their loss to express why that person hurt them.
3. Make a choice.
The master had no reason to forgive the servant of his debt, but he made a choice to release him of everything he owed. We must teach our girls that forgiveness is a choice; it’s not a feeling. Sure, it temporarily feels easier to hold onto the hurt and grief and to wish for vengeance. But freedom is found when we stop waiting for an apology and release our debtor of owing us anything—even if we only do that internally.
I recognize that forgiveness is often more than just a three-step process, especially if there is a history of pain and hurt involved. These conversations can bring up past experiences for girls, and I want to urge you to not keep quiet about serious issues like abuse. If necessary, bring your girls minister or youth pastor into the conversation and find a way to get her the help she needs through resources like counseling.
Finally, if I had to guess, this isn’t a lesson that only applies to your teen girls. Like me, there are probably a few people that you need to work on forgiving. I can’t imagine the pain and hurt that those people have caused you, and I know that forgiveness feels way too difficult right now. But I can guarantee that there is freedom found through forgiveness, and your girls are waiting for you to model that freedom and offer them the assurance that they can experience it too.
This is our last week on “The Big Questions,” and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we have! To see the other questions we have answered this month, check out these links:
Am I Really Saved?
What Do I Need to Be Baptized?
Does God Really Care About Me?