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Background Considerations

  • What motivations might lead someone to forgive another person – Love to God? Love for the person? Fear of the consequences of not forgiving? Getting rid of guilt about it? Surviving relationships?
  • Under what circumstances might there arise the need for group forgiveness, either by a group or of a group? What might be the dynamics of group forgiveness? Or does this idea even make sense in our western, individualistic world as it surely did in Bible times?
  • What might we include among potential outcomes of the process of forgiving others – For them? For us? For those around us?
  • Are there ever occasions where forgiveness would seem inappropriate? Do situations arise in which requesting or receiving forgiveness would not make sense?

Relevant Biblical Passages

  • Colossians 3:12-17 – Homiletical invitation for the believers in Colossae to behave in helpful ways among themselves: kindly, humbly, with patience and tolerance, forgiving each other (as the Lord has forgiven them), loving each other with the goal of harmony in clear focus.
  • Ephesians 4:25-32 – An invitation, this time to the believers in Ephesus, to speak with integrity to each other, express anger with restraint, avoid hurting others by means of stealing from them or gossiping about them, finding ways to show kindness and forgiveness.
  • Matthew 5:43-48 – Contrast between loving neighbors/hating enemies and Jesus’ command to love everyone, especially one’s enemy and the reasons for it.
  • Matthew 18:15-20 – The central passage on how to process offenses within the community of faith – caring confrontation with the offender; collective conversations among the church leaders; expulsion(!?) from the community; loosing and binding in heaven and on earth (what in the world does this mean?).
  • Matthew 18:23-35 – The parable of the forgiven, unforgiving servant – exaggerated debts, exorbitant grace, inexcusable resistance to forgiving others.

Contributions to the Study of Forgiveness

  • What does it mean at the level of one’s heart to be forgiven? To forgive others?

Lessons for Life

  • What does it mean to live in a community of people who are forgiving? What about in a community of non-forgiving people?

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