For Youth Workers Post

Can You Forgive Me?

Darren Wright

For use with devozine meditations for March 18–24, 2013.



“There once was a time when revenge had no limits. If someone stole your sheep, you would possibly be within your rights to steal his or her sheep, cow, horse, and wealth. If someone cut off your hand, you could possibly take his or her life.

“Then the law was challenged. Moses’ law challenged the retaliation escalation and provided a limit. No longer could you escalate the violence. You were limited: If someone took your eye, the most you could do was to take his or her eye: ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot’ (Exodus 21:24, NIV).

“The law was then challenged again. ‘Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times”’ (Matthew 18:21–22, NIV).

“It was a giant leap from a culture of retaliation; but for a community that had learned not to escalate their retaliation, perhaps this was the next step. Perhaps it’s still a huge step.

“Desmond Tutu suggests that forgiveness is an act that is of self-interest. For the individual, to forgive is healthy. To hold on to hate and anger or to seek revenge is not. I wonder what happens, then, if we were to apply the same philosophy to a community that holds back forgiveness. How long can a community hold on to hate, revenge, retaliation, or guilt before it becomes rancid?

“Today’s session asks: How long can we hold off from forgiving the other? How long can we hold off from asking for forgiveness before we become rancid and unhealthy? And, finally, is anything unforgivable?” —Darren



Darren WrightDarren Wright is a Uniting Church Youth Worker serving in the Riverina Presbytery in New South Wales, Australia, as the Presbytery Youth and Children’s Ministry Worker. Darren has previously worked in congregational ministry, high school chaplaincy, and local government as a youth worker. He has also been a petrol station attendant, supermarket employee, dairy manager, and furniture sales person. His interests include music (Moby, Radiohead, Ben Harper, The National, Muse, All India Radio), film (MegaMind, Harry Potter, How to Train your Dragon, Scott Pilgrim), TV (Chuck, Doctor Who, Big Bang Theory, Community), theology, pop-culture, and working with young people in at-risk areas. He is particularly interested in how the church and theology connects with pop culture. Check out Darren’s blog and youth ministry resources at





If you want to develop the session in other ways, these resources may be of assistance:



+The Forgiveness Project” has collected stories of forgiveness to help promote understanding, forgiveness, and alternatives to retaliation. Spend some time on the site; read some of the amazing stories.



+ “Confession,” Heart, Soul, Mind, Strength: 50 Creative Worship Ideas for Youth Groups, by Jenny Baker, page 71

+ “Forgiving Others,” Transforming Prayers: 40 Unique Experiences for Youth Ministry, by Jenny Baker, page 20



+ “Forgiving is not forgetting; it’s actually remembering—remembering and not using your right to hit back. It’s a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened.”

+ “Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.”

+ “The cycle of reprisal and counter reprisal that had characterized their national history had to be broken and . . . the only way to do this was to go beyond retributive justice to restorative justice, to move on to forgiveness, because without it there was no future.”

+ “To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger.” (See “Talk on Forgiveness“)



+Grace” is a video of a conversation between Jesus and Peter, in which grace is illustrated when Jesus forgives the unforgivable.

+Pep: Man-on-the-Street” (produced for The Prison Entrepreneurship Program) asks, “Should we be remembered for the worst thing we’ve ever done? Does everyone deserve a second chance? Can we really forgive?”

+Kids Talk Forgiveness 1” – A little boy describes what it’s like to forgive someone.

+Kids Talk Forgiveness 2” – Children explain why it is important for us to forgive others.

+Nooma: Luggage” – “Maybe a friend turned their back on you. Maybe someone you loved betrayed you. We all have wounds. . . . Maybe forgiveness is about you. God didn’t create you to carry these wounds around. God created you to be free.”

+Nooma: Lump” – “A lot of us have done things in our lives that we’re ashamed of. . . . But no matter how big our junk is, no matter how much what we’ve done has impacted the way other people feel about us or how we feel about ourselves, it hasn’t changed how God feels about us. God loves us, he always has and always will, and there’s nothing we can do to change that.”

+Pictures of Grace” – “We asked people to draw pictures of what grace has meant to them. These unscripted comments capture the heartwarming and amazing reality of God’s grace in our lives.”

+Ed’s Story” (bundle available here) – “When Ed was told that his life would be over in a few short years, he . . . wanted to mend relationships that may have been broken. He decided that relationships were way more important than who was right and who was wrong. Ed discovered that forgiveness is an issue that requires humility. He also discovered a transforming experience for all involved.”

+Desmond Tutu on Forgiveness” – In this video, Desmond Tutu is interviewed by Craig Ferguson about forgiveness.



+Perfect,” by Simple Plan

+Forgiven,” by Denison Witmer

+Forgive Me,” by Leona Lewis

+Forgiveness,” by Leona Lewis

+Grace,” by U2



Play the video “Grace,” in which a conversation between Jesus and Peter illustrates forgiveness.

Light a candle. Invite the group to sit in a circle around the candle.

Ask group members to consider this question:
          What does forgiveness look like?

Distribute paper and markers. Invite each person to illustrate forgiveness. Allow plenty of time for group members to complete their illustrations and then to place them in the center of the group around the candle.



Scripture: Matthew 18:21–22

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (NIV).


Read the scripture aloud a number of times.

  1. After the first reading, encourage people to sit in silence.
  2. Before the second reading, invite people to listen for one or two words that stand out for them. Follow the reading with silence. Then ask group members, one at a time, to speak aloud the word or words they chose.
  3. Before the third reading, invite group members to listen for words that speak to their lives today. After the reading, ask people to reflect in silence; then invite them to speak aloud the words that touch their lives.
  4. Before the fourth reading, invite the group to listen for an invitation. What does the scripture ask of them? After the reading, allow time for silent reflection; then invite group members to talk about their thoughts.


Play the video “Desmond Tutu on Forgiveness.”

Invite discussion:
          Is anything unforgiveable? Why? Why not?
          What, if anything, is unforgiveable? Why is it unforgiveable?
          What about it is hard to forgive?
          How does holding out on forgiveness affect you? In what ways do you become less patient? less loving? less healthy?
          Does the whole group agree on what is unforgiveable (as discussed in the question above)?
          If so, what does your choice say about you as a group?
          What does holding out on forgiveness say about you as a group?
          As a community, do we become less patient, loving, or healthy when we cannot forgive?

[NOTE: Recently, there have been mass shootings in the United States and fires have been set purposely by people in Australia. Communities regularly face issues of physical and sexual abuse. Be aware that the group may bring up these issues in a conversation about unforgivable actions. The conversation may also wander. Encourage people to be honest without being insensitive to others.]

Ask the group to return to the initial question of this session: What does forgiveness look like? Invite each person to show and to talk about his or her image of forgiveness.



Make available more paper and markers. Ask group members if they would like a chance to change their illustrations of forgiveness. If any of them would, encourage those people to create another image of forgiveness. If, however, some people believe their initial illustration rings true, invite those group members to illustrate one of the following: an action they want to forgive, an action for which they want forgiveness, or an action they need help forgiving.

As you bring the session to a close, read aloud the “Talk on Forgiveness” by Desmond Tutu.

Then ask group members to place their images around the candle as an act of prayer.



  • During 2008 in Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered a heartfelt apology to the indigenous people of the country for the nation’s wrongdoings in the past and the present. Read and reflect on the apology with your group or in your own quiet time in the week ahead.
  • Invite discussion of Desmond Tutu’s suggestion that forgiveness and asking for forgiveness is a healthy option.
         What does it say of a community that cannot ask for forgiveness? 
         What does it say of a community that cannot offer forgiveness? 
         What does it say of a community who expects forgiveness, but is not willing to wait? 
         How can your church community do both honestly, graciously, and “with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12)?
—from devozine In the Habit (March/April 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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