The human desire for vengeance and vindication often stands in the way of forgiveness and reconciliation when one person wrongs another. But Jesus instructed his followers, "forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions" (Mark 11:25). Christian believers must actively combat the natural desire to strike back and purposely focus their minds on a godly response when tempted to react in anger or hold a grudge. Because forgiveness can be counter instinctual, youth activities related to forgiveness should focus on letting them rehearse the words and actions that convey forgiveness so that it becomes easier to respond in grace and love when the offenses come.

Would You Forgive?

Hand out three-by-five cards and ask the youth to write examples of situations where someone has offended, wronged or angered them or a family member. Collect the cards, fan them out and have each youth draw a card. Divide into partners or small groups and read the cards together. Have the youth share with their group whether he would forgive this person and why or why not. Discuss whether each situation would be easy or difficult to forgive and why forgiveness is easier in some situations than others.

Forgiveness Booth

After a lesson on forgiveness, let the youth practice forgiving someone. Set up a private booth or area and ask each youth to think of a situation in which they need to forgive someone. If that person is present, you may choose to let the two of them use the booth to work out the issue privately and forgive one another. Alternately, you can have one male and one female youth leader or assistant sit in the booth and let the youth take turns coming into the booth to talk about the situation and practice how to approach the other person and actually say the words, "I forgive you."

Cross of Forgiveness

The cross is the ultimate symbol of God's forgiveness and Colossians 3 entreats believers to "forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you." It is easy to get so attached to a grudge that it is hard to let go but the foot of the cross is the perfect place to give that grudge up to God and let him begin to work healing in a hurtful situation. Set up a cross in your meeting room and provide a supply of hammers and nails. Encourage the youth to write down any people or situations in their lives that need the healing touch of forgiveness. Invite them to nail the offense to the cross and release the situation into God's hands.

Forgiveness Roleplay

The Bible is full of forgiveness stories: Esau welcoming Jacob on his return, Joseph and his brothers, David and Mephibosheth, the woman caught in adultery and the prodigal son as well as the parables of the two debtors and the unmerciful servant, just to name a few. Form small groups and give the youth 10-15 minutes to practice acting out one of the forgiveness episodes. Alternately, they could make up their own forgiveness scenario and act it out. Let each group perform their skit for the whole class.

Forgiveness Balloons

Divide the class into two roughly equal teams. Give each team at least one balloon per person. Each team should get balloons of just one color. Let the teams prepare by inflating the balloons and writing offenses and wrongs with which people hurt one another. Explain that forgiveness is like a sharp pin that lets all the air out of your anger and hurt. Pass out pins or thumbtacks. The goal is to keep all the balloons aloft while trying to pop the other team's balloons with the pins, calling out, "I forgive you" when it pops. The first team to forgive all their opponent's grievances by popping all their balloons wins.