It’s one thing to encourage forgiveness; it’s quite another to get kids to understand how to forgive. Fortunately, forgiveness, – like other important Christian virtues such as love – is about commitment and not about feelings. This Bible lesson using dried play dough that can be moistened and reshaped into a heart will help kids understand.
Note: This Bible lesson requires that you leave hearts shaped from play dough out in heat for 24 hours. If you are reading this too late to do that, you can also cook it for 20 minutes. It will also need to cool before children can touch it.
– Red or pink play dough, enough to make a heart shape about as long and deep as the palm of your hand, plus some extra.
– Half cup of water
1. At home, use play dough to create a heart shape about the size of the palm of your hand and less than a half-inch thick.
2. Sit the heart on the windowsill to dry out for 24 hours. If it’s too late, put it in the oven at 200 degrees for 20 minutes. Do not try microwaving it, as it can often become rubbery, and as part of the lesson, you will try to soften it with water.
Put the hard heart in front of you on a plate. Have your water available beside it. Let’s talk about our own lives. Have you ever been soooo mad at somebody you just wanted to scream or cry? What happened?
Let them discuss.
Have you ever been so mad at somebody that you stayed mad, and you’re still mad at them today?
Let them discuss.
If you don’t yet have someone in your life whom it is very hard to forgive, you surely will before you reach adulthood. Because mankind is living in a state that is fallen, it means people are more likely to think of themselves than of others. And at some point, someone’s selfish behavior will surely hurt you.
It works like this. Pick up your hardened heart on the plate and put it in the middle of the learning table. Everybody touch this heart. What does it feel like? It feels pretty hard. It’s cracked.
This is very much like a heart that has been broken. How do hearts break? Take the heart back in front of you.
Somebody is mean to you and just doesn’t care about your feelings. Break a piece of the heart off.
Somebody breaks a huge trust, telling a secret that you didn’t want to get around. And you know you can’t trust your most trusted friend anymore. Break a piece of the heart off.
Somebody takes something from you and then lies about it, saying it was never yours to begin with. You’re out a favorite piece of clothing or a favorite toy, and you have to watch somebody else show up with it all the time. Break a piece of the heart off.
Somebody lets you down, swearing they are going to do something very important for you or with you. They don’t show up and don’t seem to care how disappointed and let down you are. Break a piece of the heart off.
Hearts break”¦ Acknowledge the four pieces. But then what happens? Sometimes a broken heart can simply heal. Think of things your siblings did that made you so mad you just wanted to scream and cry. How did you feel two weeks later? If you still remembered that event that upset you, had you just decided to put it out of your mind? Let them acknowledge.
However, some hearts stay broken. And this is where things become dangerous to our health and welfare. Pass the pieces of the heart around so that students can touch them.
Pass them around quickly and don’t try to soften them up. We just want you to feel the hardness at this point.
This is like a heart that hasn’t healed – a heart that has been unable to forgive. That heart becomes hard. It becomes distrustful of others. It wants and seeks revenge. It doesn’t sleep well, doesn’t digest food well, doesn’t find any peace. However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to forgive someone. Just how do you forgive? Let them discuss some ways they might know like “forgive and forget” or “let it go.”
The most important part of forgiveness is to realize it is a commitment and not a feeling. Feelings come and go. They are not reliable gauges of what’s actually going on in heaven or what God is up to. You can look back on a hurtful incident and feel that rage temporarily, or that betrayal, or that hurt. It doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven – if you are committed.
The first thing you do is tell Jesus you want to forgive this person so that you can stop feeling your torment. Put the broken heart into its own bowl.
You give Jesus your broken heart. Then, he starts to work.
Cover the play dough in water for 10 to 15 seconds. Think of baptism”¦it’s like our broken heart is being baptized.
Pick the play dough out of the water and squeeze it several times. Drop it back in if you have to. Wipe up any mess with paper towels. Begin to roll the play dough around in your hand. If your ball was too hard to roll, just get out a second handful that is fresh – they will get the idea.
The feelings of forgiveness will come and go for a while. Just remember that no matter what you are feeling, you gave Jesus your commitment, and he is doing his work.
Eventually”¦roll the play dough out on the table and create a heart shape once again”¦ You will let go of tough incidents. Jesus will make your heart fresh. You will feel a great sense of renewal. You will sleep well, eat well, think well, and feel well. Make a commitment to forgive. Believe Jesus is working on it for you. When you feel anger or resentment or hurt, remember your commitment and ignore your feelings.
People have forgiven those who murdered family members. People have forgiven abusers. People have forgiven thieves and robbers who left them poor. People have forgiven those who injured them with a knife or a blunt object.
Not only were their hearts restored, but they slept better, ate better, digested food better, concentrated on school subjects better, and were able to love and connect with others again.
A commitment to forgive is what starts it all.
Today is International Forgiveness Day. People all over the world will be forgiving others. Hold out your new heart. Can you commit yourself to forgive someone, or to remember how to forgive, for when you need it in your future?
You might also be interested in these Bible lesson ideas!
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