In your table groups, read the following Scriptures, and discuss the questions that follow:
- Mark 11:25
- Luke 6:27-36
- Romans 12:14-21
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
- Ephesians 4:26-27
What themes do you notice from these Scriptures?
Is it okay to be upset with someone? What conditions does God place on anger?
How are we to act towards our enemies? Why do you think this is so?
Read the parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-35. Consider that this Scripture is most likely about forgiving a Christian brother or sister (notice that Peter asks about forgiving “my brother,” that Jesus is making a comparison to the “kingdom of heaven” and that the other man is referred to as a “fellow servant.”). If that’s true, what is Jesus saying about forgiveness? (Hint: the jail cannot be hell, and the torture cannot be eternal in hell if this is about believers.)
This Challenge teaches how bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred and resentment create a trap for us and how forgiveness and turning things over to God (especially when we are having a hard time forgiving in our own power) gets us free from the trap. It uses Chinese finger traps to illustrate the point.
- Genesis 37-50 (Particularly Genesis 50 when Joseph forgives his brothers)
- Colossians 3:13
- Finger traps – 1 per person with several extras in case they break (they are notoriously poorly made – You can order them through anyone you like, but they are cheaply available through Oriental Trading. Order early, because it may take a few weeks for them to arrive. Approximately $10 for 72, plus shipping and handling. The link to Oriental Trading: http://www.orientaltrading.com/ui/search/processRequest.do?Ntt=finger+trap&x=0&y=0&requestURI=searchMain&Ntk=all&Ntx=mode%2Bmatchallpartial&N=0)
- Challenge Card (The file for printing is called, “JJ – Let Go, Let God, Get Free – Challenge Card (CHALLENGE),” and it can be found on the Lesson and Material Downloads page at www.teachingthem.com. This can be printed in black and white on regular paper. There are two Challenge Cards per page.)
- Ziplock bags – any size – 1 per group
- Print out the Challenge Card document.
- Cut the Challenge Card document in half (each half is identical), and put one in each Ziplock bag (one per group).
- Put enough finger traps into each Ziplock bag for each person to have one (and maybe a few extras).
- Practice the script.
Use the following script (or modify to suit your needs):
- “We’re going to do a group Challenge today.”
- “It’s called, “Let Go, Let God, Get Free!” and it’s part of the Joseph’s Journey Series.”
- “First, I’ll need to divide you into groups.” (Divide the participants into the number of groups for which you have prepared kits.)
- “Each group will have a Ziplock bag with a Challenge Card.”
- “When I tell you to go, open your Ziplock bags, and read the Challenge Card.” (Allow them to read the Challenge Card.)
- “Colossians 3:13 says, ‘Put up with each other. Forgive the things you are holding against one another. Forgive, just as the Lord forgave you.’” (NIRV)
- “This challenge is about how bitterness, resentment, hatred and unforgiveness become a trap for us.”
- “How many of you have ever seen a Chinese finger trap before?” (Acknowledge responses.)
- “Let’s say that this finger trap (hold up a finger trap for everyone to see) is bitterness, resentment, hatred or unforgiveness.”
- “When you are feeling these emotions toward someone, it’s like putting your fingers in the trap.” (Demonstrate for them.)
- “Sometimes you want to get free from these emotions, but you can’t.” (Pull your fingers apart. The finger trap should tighten up on them and prevent your fingers from getting free.)
- “You might even want to forgive that person, but the trap of bitterness, resentment, hatred or unforgiveness won’t let you go.” (Demonstrate trying to pull your fingers out again.)
- “These are times when it may not be possible for you to forgive that person. It’s just too hard.”
- “So, here’s what you should do.”
- “First, LET GO! – This means, stop trying so hard to do what you can’t do on your own.”
- “Next, LET GOD! – This means, let God do what you can’t do. Pray to Him, and tell Him what you are struggling with. Ask Him to give you His love and His forgiveness for that person.”
- “Finally, GET FREE! – It’s like a miracle! When you stop trying so hard and let God do what you can’t do, you get free! The bitterness, resentment, hatred or unforgiveness will disappear as God replaces it with His love and His forgiveness.”
- “Let me show you what I mean with this finger trap.” (As you demonstrate, say the three steps out loud. First show them that trying in your own power just makes the trap tighter. Then, LET GO! – Push your fingers together so that they meet in the middle of the trap. LET GOD! – Ask someone else to hold the finger trap (they are representing God), while you carefully and slowly pull your fingers out. GET FREE! – Show the group that your fingers are free from the trap of bitterness, resentment, hatred and unforgiveness.)
- “See how it works?”
- “When I can’t do it myself, I stop trying and just pray that God will change my heart for me. Then I get free!”
- “So what are the three steps again?” (Let the group tell you several times what the three steps are in order – LET GO! LET GOD! GET FREE!)
- “Want to try it on your own?” (Pass out the finger traps and let them play with them. Try to get them to go through the three steps and say them out loud several times.)
- (When you are finished, have them answer the Debrief Questions below (also on their Challenge Cards). The Rhyme Time is to help them recognize that God can help them forgive.)
- Why is it important to forgive people when they hurt you?
- Why is it so hard to forgive people sometimes?
- Do you think these three steps will work for you? Why or why not?
Jesus helps me to forgive; Holding a grudge is no way to live!
Children, Teens, Adults
This object lesson teaches about the danger of holding a grudge (i.e., choosing not to forgive someone). It uses an illustration from Where the Red Fern Grows, a great book about a boy and his hunting dogs, by Wilson Rawls. In the book, the boy learns about an unethical hunter, who traps raccoons by using a weakness in their nature. The lesson compares the trapper to Satan and the trapper’s methods to Satan’s way of trapping us with our own bitterness.
- 2-3 foot log
- Drill with a large bit (like the kind used for drilling doorknob holes into doors) and a small bit (the same diameter as your pegs or pins)
- 3-4 pegs or pins (about 5” long each)
- 2” ball of aluminum foil
- (A diagram of this build is in the file called, “JJ – Holding a Grudge – Diagram (OBJ LESSON)” and it can be found on the Lesson and Material Downloads page at www.teachingthem.com.)
- ALTERNATIVE: If you don’t want to build the trap, you could just show the diagram as an illustration.
- Drill a large hole into the side of the log – large and deep enough for someone to stick his/her hand in and grab a 2” ball of aluminum foil.
- Hammer pegs or pins into the hole at a 45 degree angle so that the volunteer can get their hand in and comfortably grab the ball of foil but so that he/she will not be able to remove their hand while still clutching the foil.
- Sand down the rough spots to protect your volunteer from splinters.
- Put the aluminum foil ball into the hole.
- These materials will make a trapping device to illustrate how Satan tricks us into holding onto something worthless even though we can’t get free from the trap while we hold it. A volunteer will put his/her hand into the hole and grab the aluminum foil ball. The simple solution would be to let go of the ball and get free, but sometimes we want what the ball represents too much.
- Practice the script.
Use the following script (or modify to suit your needs):
- “There’s a great book by Wilson Rawls, called Where the Red Fern Grows. It’s about a young boy and his hunting dogs.”
- “At one point in the story, the boy finds evidence of an unethical hunter.”
- “The hunter would trap raccoons by using a weakness in their nature.”
- “He would take a fallen log like this one.” (Gesture to log.)
- “And he would drill a hole in the top, like this one.” (Gesture to hole.)
- “Then, he would hammer nails through the wood into the hole at a 45 degree angle, like these.” (Gesture to pegs.)
- “Finally, he would drop something shiny into the hole like this.” (Drop in aluminum ball. Ask for a volunteer to come up and pretend to be a raccoon.)
- “My volunteer will represent a raccoon that the hunter is trying to trap.”
- “Raccoons LOVE shiny things!”
- “They can’t resist them.”
- “So, when a raccoon sees something shiny, he reaches for it.”
- “The raccoon would put his hand into the hole in the log and grab the aluminum foil ball.” (Have volunteer reach into the trap and make a fist around the aluminum ball.)
- “But while he had his fist around the ball, his hand was too big to pull his hand out of the hole.”
- “He would struggle and pull for hours, but he wouldn’t let go of the ball.” (Have volunteer pretend to struggle to pull fist out of the hole. He/she can’t let go of the ball in order to get free.)
- “Even when he saw the hunter coming, he wanted the shiny thing so much that he wouldn’t let go to save his life.”
- “So, that’s how the hunter traps the raccoon. Now, let’s make a comparison to how Satan traps people.”
- “Let’s pretend that this trap is really a trap called unforgiveness.”
- “My volunteer will represent each of us, and in this comparison, we are like the raccoon in the story.”
- “The trap is a trap of not forgiving someone when they hurt you or disappoint you or forget about you or mistreat you.”
- “The shiny ball is called a ‘grudge.’”
- “A grudge is a bad feeling you have against someone.”
- “It can be anger, bitterness or resentment. It’s a bad feeling, but it feels good.”
- “It feels justified and right sometimes to be mad at someone.”
- “Do you ever feel that way?” (Acknowledge responses.)
- “I do. It’s not good to feel that way, but sometimes we are tempted to.”
- “When you hold the grudge, it’s very satisfying.”
- “We spend lots of time thinking about how badly the other person treated us and how good it would feel to get even with them.”
- “We feel like we SHOULD be mad at them. If we don’t stay mad at them, then they will get away with the bad thing that they did without having to pay for it.”
- “We want them to be punished for the bad thing that they did.”
- “But here’s the problem…the grudge looks shiny and feels good to hold, but it’s really just GARBAGE!”
- “There’s no real value in it. Even if you got it out of the trap, it wouldn’t make your life better.”
- “It wouldn’t fix any of your problems.”
- “It wouldn’t even make you feel better, because it doesn’t do what it promises.”
- “You think getting even makes you feel better, but it actually makes you feel worse.”
- “And the whole time you are holding a grudge, Satan is using it to destroy you.”
- “Satan is like the trapper who comes to kill the raccoon.” (Have volunteer struggle to pull the grudge out of the trap as you pretend to be a trapper coming to get him/her. Look menacing, but don’t scare your audience if they are young.)
- “You can try to get free, but it’s not possible while you are holding onto the grudge.”
- “Satan will use the grudge to steal your life – your joy and happiness – from you.”
- “As long as you hold the grudge, you will be unhappy – I guarantee it.”
- “The only good solution is to let go of the grudge.”
- “Open your hand, and release it.” (Demonstrate with volunteer.)
- “This is called forgiveness.”
- “It’s letting go of your right to get even with the other person.”
- “It doesn’t mean that you have to like the person or have a relationship with him or her, but it does mean that you can’t wish bad things about them anymore.”
- “When you forgive, you let go of the grudge and get free from the trap.”
- “When you let go of the grudge, you show that you are trusting God to take care of the situation and do what He thinks is best.”
- “Only God is wise enough to know what needs to be done in your situation.”
- “When you trust God to handle bad situations, your happiness and joy will return.”
- “So, here’s how it works again…” (Have volunteer reach back in and grab the grudge but then demonstrate the next three steps with you.)
- “Step 1 – Let go (of the grudge).” (Have volunteer let go of the grudge but keep his/her hand in the trap.)
- “Step 2 – Let God (take care of things).” (Have volunteer look up to God and maybe raise his/her other hand to demonstrate giving the grudge to God.)
- “Step 3 – Get Free (from the trap of unforgiveness)!” (Have volunteer pull their hand from the trap and put both hands in the air to show that he/she is free.)
- “Let’s say the three steps together – Let God, Let God, Get Free!” (Have the entire group say this several times so that they get it.)
- “So, don’t let Satan trap you into holding a grudge.” (Thank and dismiss volunteer. You can use the Rhyme Time below to reinforce the message of this lesson. The Scriptures at the top are provided in case you want to tell the story as context for the lesson.)
Jesus helps me to forgive,
Holding a grudge is no way to live.
This object lesson helps children understand how to deal with bad thoughts, fear and worry. It uses a simple water science trick that changes the surface tension of water in order to produce an impressive result. When you add soap to water, it displaces some of the water molecules (especially those on the surface). The water molecules on the outside of the bowl will pull the pepper away from the soap.
· Pepper (about a handful, but it’s better if it’s still in the container)
· Salt (just enough to shake some out once or twice)
· Dish soap (at least a few drops in the bottle)
· Clear bowl
· Water (enough to fill the bowl about ¾ full)
· Display table
· Set up the bowl of water on the display table at the front of the teaching area.
· Set up the mirror behind the bowl so that it will show what is happening on top of the water to the kids in the audience. (You can prop it against a wall or between a few stacks of books. If you need to, get a volunteer to hold it during the demonstration.)
· Have the pepper, salt and dish soap ready on the table.
- “We are going to do a demonstration today, and I’m going to need a volunteer.” (Ask for a volunteer to come up to the front.)
- “Let’s say that this bowl of water represents your mind.”
- “And let’s say that this pepper represents bad thoughts, worry and fear.” (Hand pepper to volunteer.)
- “Sometimes, you can’t stop thinking about bad stuff – like how much you are angry at your brother or sister.” (Have volunteer shake pepper into bowl).
- “You try to think about something else, but those bad thoughts just keep coming back.” (Have volunteer shake pepper.)
- “Or you might be worried about something, and you just keep thinking about it and thinking about it.” (Have volunteer shake pepper.)
- “Or maybe you are afraid of something terrible.”
- “You can’t even get to sleep at night, because it’s so awful and scary!” (Have volunteer shake pepper.)
- “Before long, your mind is full of all these bad thoughts, worry and fear, and you can’t relax or get calm.”
- “I’ve had that happen to me, and I’ve tried to focus on other things…” (Hand volunteer the salt and have him/her pour some in.)
- “…but it didn’t make the bad thoughts go away.”
- “You know what I’ve learned? There is one thing that always makes those bad thoughts, worry and fear go away. Anyone know what it is?” (Listen for responses. Share correct response if they don’t offer it.)
- “Prayer! Prayer always takes care of it.”
- “It’s like this soap.” (Hand volunteer the dish soap.)
- “It washes my mind clean of those bad thoughts.”
- “Watch what one little prayer can do to scary thoughts and bad thoughts.” (Have volunteer drop a single drop in – pepper will scatter.)
- “Isn’t that the coolest!”
- “So, remember – anytime your mind starts to fill up with bad thoughts, worry and fear, chase it away with a prayer.”
- “God will wash your mind clean for you.” (Thank and dismiss volunteer.)