Monday, June 17, 2013

How Should Forgiveness and Repentance Be Taught?

Often, we group forgiveness and repentance together in lessons and teach about them as one combined lesson.  I don't like that approach. 

I have no problem with teaching forgiveness and repentance on back-to-back Sundays and emphasizing that they are related in a very real way, but I think we do a grave disservice to both principles if we lump them together - both ideologically and in practical, time-allotment terms. They each deserve a full lesson, at the very least.

I have no problem with linking the two and showing their closeness and inter-dependence. I just think each one is important enough and unique enough in and of itself that trying to teach them both together within the teaching structure currently available to us at church (30-40 minutes, max, at any given time) ends up shorting the attention we should pay to each of them. That's why I would favor teaching them in separate but concurrent lessons - or together in a fireside format where there is well over an hour to address them.
I also have no problem with a lesson where the focus is on not judging - and forgiveness and repentance are among multiple things mentioned that are part of learning not to judge. However, if forgiveness is the central topic, and if we only have 30-40 minutes to teach about it . . .

Finally, a friend of mine once said the following:

Personally I don't believe that anyone really deserves to be forgiven. Sure they can stop doing whatever is perceived to be wrong, apologize, etc. but it's not like they can go back in time and undo whatever mistakes they have already made (and the effects of those mistakes). That's why I see forgiveness as more of a gift from God (and the person who is hurt) rather than something we really earn. As far as forgiving others, I think it is just part of being a charitable person to not continue to hold a grudge over something in the past that you can't really change now.

I really like that - since it is both profound and simple.

1 comment:

ji said...

I think forgiveness and repentance is best taught in very human terms -- think of how often and how quickly a charitable parent forgives his or her son or daughter -- and think of how a wayward son or daughter who has offended his or her parents wants to restore the balance and re-establish trust.