Children's Object Lesson on Forgiveness
Children often learn about forgiveness alongside such scriptures as, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32). However, young children sometimes have trouble understanding their need for forgiveness because it is not something they can physically see or touch. An object lesson on forgiveness gives them a visual on which to hang their understanding of what it means that God forgives their sins and washes them clean for a fresh start.
1 Erasing Sin
Sin is like a big black pencil mark on a piece of paper and forgiveness is the eraser that wipes away the mistake. Demonstrate erasing a single black mark from a sheet of paper. Explain that sometimes people do a lot of bad things and their paper gets really black. Make heavy black scribbles on the paper. A pencil only has a small eraser and it wears down quickly for a big erasing job, just like people who are hurt by others' sins get worn down having to forgive over and over again, as Jesus teaches. There is no way for one person to forgive all of another's sins. That is why people need Jesus, because He is like a giant eraser that has the power to wipe the sin entirely clean and give a person a fresh start. Show the children a new, clean, white sheet of paper.
2 Wrinkled Forgiveness
When someone hurts another person, that person's heart is crumpled like a piece of paper. Ask the children to crumple a sheet of paper into a ball. Forgiveness starts the mending process between the two people, but deep hurts can still leave cracks in the heart just as the paper is still wrinkled even if you flatten it out as much as possible. It won't go back to its original state. Let the children try to straighten out the wrinkled paper. But when you allow Jesus to come into the broken places and heal the hurt with His forgiveness, that which was incurably wrinkled and broken on its own becomes fresh and new again. Trade the children a fresh sheet for the wrinkled one and let them draw a picture representing forgiveness.
3 Coffee Filter Forgiveness
People need forgiveness because sin separates humankind from God. Have the children name some things they do that create a rift between themselves and God. Write them lightly in pencil on a coffee filter. Place the filter in a bowl or shallow pan and explain that the blood of Christ covers over all sin. Drop several drops of red food color on the filter until it is mostly red. Carefully hold it up to show how the "blood" made the sins disappear.
4 Tied Up in Sin
Sin ties a person up and holds him captive and the only way out is through God's forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Ask for a volunteer and have the rest of the children write down sins on cards. Tape or pin each one to a long sheet and wrap the sheet around the volunteer a little tighter with each sin that is added until he is completely bound. Explain that when sin has hold of a person, he is covered and trapped in it, but when a person prays and asks forgiveness, God releases him from the bondage of sin. Lead the children in a prayer for forgiveness of sins as you unwrap the volunteer and remove his "sins" far from him just as God does for a truly repentant heart.