For Youth Workers Post


Will Penner

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for August 3–9, 2015.


“I’ll never forget when it first dawned on me what I was saying in the Lord’s Prayer when I asked God to forgive me as I forgave others. I had said the words for so long without grasping their meaning. I was asking God to dispense grace to me at the level that I dispensed grace to others. In a pivotal moments of conviction by the Holy Spirit, I realized that was not what I wanted at all.” —Will


Will PennerWill Penner has been in ministry with young people for more than two decades in Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches, public and private schools, and as a very popular speaker at youth retreats, camps, and conferences. He has served as the editor of both leading professional journals of youth ministry and has authored or edited numerous youth ministry curricula and books, the latest of which is It Happens: True Tales from the Trenches of Youth Ministry. But most important, he is the husband of his amazing wife, Christine, and the father of five fantastic children ranging in age from 6 to 23. Find



  • Here’s an opening video using Matthew West’s song “Forgiveness” that includes nice images and the lyrics in slideshow format.
  • Check out The Forgiveness Project, which is full of stories and photographs of reconciliation and forgiveness amid horrifying atrocities around the world. It is not religiously affiliated, but it is an incredible testament to the ability of the human spirit.


When group members arrive, invite them to sit in a circle. Ask each person in turn to complete and then to offer a brief explanation of this sentence: “I have the hardest time forgiving a person who . . .”


Scripture: Luke 6:36–42

This passage is also recorded in Matthew 7:1–5 as part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The text offers rich timeless wisdom that could be unpacked in a series of sermons or books. But for our purposes, we will consider three points:

First, notice the clear directives to be merciful and to avoid judging and condemning. These are commandments, not gray areas to be debated and considered. Jesus sets a high bar: We are to be merciful as God is merciful. Now that is a tall order! When Jesus’ disciples ask him to teach them how to pray, he gives them a model that we have come to call The Lord’s Prayer. When we pray, among other things, we ask God to forgive us as we forgive others.

Let’s take a moment to let the words of the prayer sink in. “Forgive us, as we forgive.” Is that what we want? Do we want God’s forgiveness to be even remotely close to our forgiveness—the way we forgive others? Honestly, I’d be a lot more comfortable if Jesus had worded the prayer differently. Even reversing it would be better: “Help us to forgive others as you forgive us.” But that’s not what Jesus said. Some theologians even go so far as to argue that the forgiveness we shall receive from God has some correlation to the degree of forgiveness we dispense to other people, that God’s forgiveness is dependent on ours. I wholeheartedly disagree with their perspective; I think God’s grace is not dependent on our ability to show grace. But I also think Jesus uses such strong language because he wants us to see the parallel.

Second, notice how conditional language is repeated: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.” Then Jesus adds the measure-for-measure language: “the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:37–38). When people conducted business in those days, they used scales to weigh the items sold to prove the transaction was fair. When someone used faulty measuring tools to measure items that were being bartered, that person was cheating someone else out of a fair trade. Such practices were at the core of Jesus’ anger when he overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the temple (John 2:13–16). Members of Jesus’ audience—both then and now—are intimately familiar with how they feel when others take advantage of them. We desire justice, the desire to which Jesus is appealing. We know how merciful God has been with us, and we need to demonstrate that kind of mercy to others in order to provide “measure for measure.”

Finally, notice Jesus’ use of hyperbole, which is a fancy literary word for exaggeration. He intentionally talks about how human beings tend to see even the tiniest of faults in others while ignoring huge character flaws of their own to which they should be tending. Jesus rightly calls this hypocrisy. His image is powerful: the tiny little “speck” in someone else’s eye versus the “log” or “plank” in our own eye. The reminder is that we are to focus on judging our own character growth and fixing what’s wrong instead of worrying so much about others’.


“God, please help us to remember how much grace you have given to us, even though we don’t deserve it. Help us to grant others the same level of grace, so that it may be yet again returned to us, “pressed down, shaken together, running over.” Let us continue to pray as Jesus taught us, saying, “Our Father . . .” (Encourage group members to pray together The Lord’s Prayer.)


  • Read aloud the parable of the wicked slave who owed money to the master, was forgiven, but held another person’s smaller debt against him (Matthew 18:21–35). Take note of how this parable gets at the same point as Luke 6:36–42. Invite group members to write their own parable that uses modern language and everyday people and situations to make the same point.
  • Keep track of every person you encounter this week. Whom do you have a tendency to judge? How could you change the way you think about, speak to, or react to him or her? Ask God for guidance in each situation.

—from devozine In the Habit (July/August 2015). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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