|Asking Your Kids for Forgiveness
by Jen Price
Forgive ~ to stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake.
My husband and I have worked hard to teach our kids the difference between saying, “I’m sorry” and “Will you forgive me?”. They are usually quick to say they are sorry for a wrong action, but to ask for forgiveness, well, those words don’t just roll off the tongue. Why is that?
Because it takes humility.
It takes admitting that the action you just did was out of the boundaries that God has for you. Asking forgiveness means you are asking another person to cancel the feelings of anger or hurt that your action just created in them. Learning to ask for forgiveness is a powerful life lesson that will help our kids far into adulthood.
Several years ago, my humble-yourself-and-ask-for-forgiveness thing was tested to the max.
On a particularly not-so-good day, my peace-and-calming-speak-in-love radar was way off. In a moment of breaking up sibling fights and diffusing arguments for what must have been the gazillionth time, I lost it. I raised my voice. I spoke in anger. I stepped outside of the boundary.
I was faced with a decision to make, one that I’d asked my kids to make many times before. Would I humble myself and ask my kids to forgive me, or would I let my pride take over and hope they forgot the whole thing?
The first option felt like the single most humbling thing I’d ever done in my life, but the second option would mean I would be missing out on a very important opportunity to model this forgiveness thing.
Did you know that walking in humility and asking for forgiveness tears down walls and builds bridges?
In one moment, anger and tears can be the emotions overwhelming the room, but once forgiveness enters in, that anger and those tears are replaced with joy and love (well, maybe there’s still a few tears). I explained to my kids that responding in anger and raising my voice was wrong and as I asked, “Will you forgive me?”, it was so clearly visible how the room softened.
I want my kids to learn to ask for forgiveness and to forgive others. Merely telling them to do it won’t cut it. I have to model it for them. My imperfect self seems to get this opportunity to do this regularly. I hate it, but I love it.
I’ve never seen the words, “I’m sorry” in the Bible, but I’ve read plenty of passages talking about forgiveness.
It’s so powerful that Jesus says it’s only when we forgive others that He will forgive us. I’m pretty sure that indicates the importance of the daily practice of this powerful act.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:14-15
Along this parenting journey, I’m always looking for resources to help teach my kids these life lessons I want them to learn. Besides the Bible, another great resource for teaching kids to walk in forgiveness is Mercer Mayer’s We All Need Forgiveness. The timeless classic tales of Little Critter draw kids in, and this particular book shows how forgiveness is a two-sided action. We must ask, and we must receive.
* * *
How do you teach your kids forgiveness? Is there a time when you had to ask forgiveness from your children?
Midday. By midday, the sun is at its hottest. A Samaritan woman comes to the well to fetch water and finds a stranger sitting there—a Jew. He speaks to her. He asks her for a drink. A single Jewish man talking to an un-chaperoned woman! And a Samaritan at that! Doesn’t he know the rules?
That was probably what a lot of people in that area thought when they saw Jesus talking to the woman at the well. But Jesus didn’t often follow the rules. Throughout his ministry, he showed a special regard for women. Women were among his followers (Luke 8.1–3). They came to listen to him (Matthew 15.38). They supported him—even when his closest followers, men, had deserted him (Mark 14.50). He rewarded their faith (Matthew 9.20–22). Jesus gave women a value and attention that was radically different in the socially rigid hierarchies of first-century Israel. Why? Because the water of life was for everybody. Of that, Jesus was certain.
In some parts of the world, women are denied education and employment, status and respect; some are little more than slaves. But Jesus came to remind them of their beloved status. Those who trust him are his children, and therefore worthy of respect.
How did Jesus show his concern for the woman at the well? How did the woman respond to Jesus’ offer of living water? What does her response tell you about her thirst?
Consider the women among your family and friends. What are their goals and dreams? How can you lead them to the Lord and support them in their goals? Also, think about contributing your time and resources to aid oppressed women in other countries. Pray: Lord, you created every person in your image and you’ve given each of us special gifts. Help us to value ourselves and one another. Help us to ensure that no one is denied a chance to contribute to the great work of loving and serving you.
Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
Jesus left Judea and started for Galilee again. This time he had to go through Samaria, and on his way he came to the town of Sychar. It was near the field that Jacob had long ago given to his son Joseph. The well that Jacob had dug was still there, and Jesus sat down beside it because he was tired from traveling. It was noon, and after Jesus’ disciples had gone into town to buy some food, a Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well.
Jesus asked her, “Would you please give me a drink of water?”
“You are a Jew,” she replied, “and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink of water when Jews and Samaritans won’t have anything to do with each other?”
Jesus answered, “You don’t know what God wants to give you, and you don’t know who is asking you for a drink. If you did, you would ask me for the water that gives life.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. Where are you going to get this life-giving water? Our ancestor Jacob dug this well for us, and his family and animals got water from it. Are you greater than Jacob?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again. But no one who drinks the water I give will ever be thirsty again. The water I give will become in that person a flowing fountain that gives eternal life.”
The woman replied, “Sir, please give me a drink of that water! Then I won’t get thirsty and have to come to this well again.”
Jesus told her, “Go and bring your husband.”
The woman answered, “I don’t have a husband.”
“That’s right,” Jesus replied, “you’re telling the truth. You don’t have a husband. You have already been married five times, and the man you are now living with isn’t your husband.”
The woman said, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. My ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say Jerusalem is the only place to worship.”
Jesus said to her:
Believe me, the time is coming when you won’t worship the Father either on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans don’t really know the one you worship. But we Jews do know the God we worship, and by using us, God will save the world. But a time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth.
The woman said, “I know that the Messiah will come. He is the one we call Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
“I am that one,” Jesus told her, “and I am speaking to you now.”
The disciples returned about this time and were surprised to find Jesus talking with a woman. But none of them asked him what he wanted or why he was talking with her.
The woman left her water jar and ran back into town, where she said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! Could he be the Messiah?” Everyone in town went out to see Jesus.
While this was happening, Jesus’ disciples were saying to him, “Teacher, please eat something.”
But Jesus told them, “I have food you don’t know anything about.”
His disciples started asking each other, “Has someone brought him something to eat?”
My food is to do what God wants! He is the one who sent me, and I must finish the work that he gave me to do. You may say there are still four months until harvest time. But I tell you to look, and you will see that the fields are ripe and ready to harvest.
Even now the harvest workers are receiving their reward by gathering a harvest that brings eternal life. Then everyone who planted the seed and everyone who harvests the crop will celebrate together. So the saying proves true, “Some plant the seed, and others harvest the crop.” I am sending you to harvest crops in fields where others have done all the hard work.
~ John 4:3-38 ~
Tamar is a Canaanite who marries into Judah’s family. When her husband dies, she marries the brother, as custom dictates, to “carry on the line.” This was known as a levirate marriage. Children born into this union are considered part of the dead brother’s family line. But Onan’s selfishness netted him a death sentence.
Tamar was trapped: an isolated, childless widow far from her own clan. Technically betrothed to Shelah, she cannot marry anyone else. She has been used and is now useless. So, disguised as a prostitute, she gained children through her father-in-law Judah. His seal and staff, the username and password of the ancient world, were proof as his identity as the father of her children.
This is the tale of a woman trapped into subservience and slavery. Lied to and betrayed by the men around her, the only option opened for Tamar was prostitution. The morality of this tale may be murky, but Tamar’s courage and ingenuity were praised in the story. Tamar knows her duty and does it.
Tamar is the forerunner of so many women and girls who are the victims of lies and broken promises. Yet she triumphs. This lonely, desperate woman became part of the family line of the Messiah (Matthew 1.2–6a).
How does Tamar’s situation help you understand the plight of many women in other countries? Have you ever been tempted to judge someone in Tamar’s situation without understanding her side of the story? Why or why not? Consider how Judah finally owned up to his part.
Be a good role model and advocate for healthy relationships, demonstrating your value of human life and respect for others. Consider donating to a home for abused women or a ministry that works to rescue women caught in the sex trade in other countries. Pray: Lord, people who abuse others behave as if you wear a blindfold. They rely on fear to prevent their victims from crying out for justice. Give your people boldness to expose the wickedness of abusers, and compassion to defend and support the helpless. Use your powerful arm, Lord God, to help those in need.
Judah and Tamar
About that time Judah left his brothers in the hill country and went to live near his friend Hirah in the town of Adullam. While there he met the daughter of Shua, a Canaanite man. Judah married her, and they had three sons. He named the first one Er; she named the next one Onan. The third one was born when Judah was in Chezib, and she named him Shelah.
Later, Judah chose Tamar as a wife for Er, his oldest son. But Er was very evil, and the Lord took his life. So Judah told Onan, “It’s your duty to marry Tamar and have a child for your brother.”
Onan knew the child would not be his, and when he had sex with Tamar, he made sure that she would not get pregnant. The Lord wasn’t pleased with Onan and took his life too.
Judah did not want the same thing to happen to his son Shelah, and he told Tamar, “Go home to your father and live there as a widow until my son Shelah is grown.” So Tamar went to live with her father.
Some years later Judah’s wife died, and he mourned for her. He then went with his friend Hirah to the town of Timnah, where his sheep were being sheared. Tamar found out that her father-in-law Judah was going to Timnah to shear his sheep. She also realized that Shelah was now a grown man, but she had not been allowed to marry him. So she decided to dress in something other than her widow’s clothes and to cover her face with a veil. After this, she sat outside the town of Enaim on the road to Timnah.
When Judah came along, he did not recognize her because of the veil. He thought she was a prostitute and asked her to sleep with him. She asked, “What will you give me if I do?”
“One of my young goats,” he answered.
“What will you give me to keep until you send the goat?” she asked.
“What do you want?” he asked in return.
“The ring on that cord around your neck,” was her reply. “I also want the special walking stick you have with you.” He gave them to her, they slept together, and she became pregnant.
After returning home, Tamar took off the veil and dressed in her widow’s clothes again.
Judah asked his friend Hirah take a goat to the woman, so he could get back the ring and walking stick, but she wasn’t there. Hirah asked the people of Enaim, “Where is the prostitute who sat along the road outside your town?”
“There’s never been one here,” they answered.
Hirah went back and told Judah, “I couldn’t find the woman, and the people of Enaim said no prostitute had ever been there.”
“If you couldn’t find her, we’ll just let her keep the things I gave her,” Judah answered. “And we’d better forget about the goat, or else we’ll look like fools.”
About three months later someone told Judah, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has behaved like a prostitute, and now she’s pregnant!”
“Drag her out of town and burn her to death!” Judah shouted.
As Tamar was being dragged off, she sent someone to tell her father-in-law, “The man who gave me this ring, this cord, and this walking stick is the one who got me pregnant.”
“Those are mine!” Judah admitted. “She’s a better person than I am, because I broke my promise to let her marry my son Shelah.” After this, Judah never slept with her again.
Tamar later gave birth to twins. But before either of them was born, one of them stuck a hand out of her womb. The woman who was helping tied a red thread around the baby’s hand and explained, “This one came out first.”
At once his hand went back in, and the other child was born first. The woman then said, “What an opening you’ve made for yourself!” So they named the baby Perez. When the brother with the red thread was born, they named him Zerah.
~ Genesis 38:1-30 ~
Shortly before the collapse of Judah, there was hardly a man who could be trusted. For a prophet like Jeremiah, there were enemies everywhere. Every conversation was a trap, every meeting—even among families—a potential threat. From top to bottom, society was corrupt. People had taught themselves to tell lies, heaping sin upon sin and deceit upon deceit, refusing to acknowledge God.
Fast-forward 2,500 years or so and, for many people, nothing much has changed. For millions of Christians in the world today, this is business as usual. Because of governmental or peer suppression, they cannot openly talk about their faith or invite people to meet Jesus. Endangered by their friends and families, the subjects of suspicion and lies, they trust in God because no one else is trustworthy.
How did Jeremiah express his frustration? Have you ever felt as cornered as Jeremiah? What happened as a result?
Many people in the world are denied free speech. Their media is not free; they have no independent press. Which places in the world are threatened by free speech? Why? Consider how you can help their voice to be heard. Pray: Lord, help me to build trust in my family, church, and community by first putting my trust in you, the One who knows all my needs and seeks my welfare. Guide my actions and my words. Help me to be honest and fair in all my words and deeds.
I wish that my eyes
were fountains of tears,
so I could cry day and night
for my people
who were killed.
I wish I could go into the desert
and find a hiding place
from all who are treacherous
and unfaithful to God.
The Lord Answers Jeremiah
The Lord replied:
Lies come from the mouths
of my people,
like arrows from a bow.
With each dishonest deed
their power increases,
and not one of them will admit
that I am God.
Jeremiah, all your friends
tell lies about you,
so don’t trust them.
They wear themselves out,
always looking for a new way
to cheat their friends.
Everyone takes advantage
of everyone else,
and no one will admit
that I am God.
- Jeremiah 9:1-6 -
Job lost everything except faith. Alienated from his friends and family, he scratched out a bare-bones existence on a rubbish heap outside the city. And he cried to God for some kind of explanation.
What he wanted was not revenge, but justice. He wanted to leave behind a true, permanent record. He cried out for someone not to forget him, to set the record straight. He was a victim and he wanted to have things put right.
The Hebrew word translated here as “Savior” is “goel” (“redeemer”). A goel had the duty to seek justice for a murdered kinsman (Numbers 35.12–28). He had the responsibility to buy back the inheritance of a dead relative, which could mean redeeming someone from slavery or even marrying the widow to provide her with an heir. God is depicted as a goel of oppressed individuals (Proverbs 23.10,11) or even an oppressed nation (Exodus 6.6; Isaiah 43.1).
There are millions of people who have experienced suffering like Job’s. In the slums of the world, in the garbage dumps outside the cities, in the prisons and the torture chambers, in the refugee camps, they need a redeemer. They need hope. They need someone to speak for them.
Why was the news of his redeemer encouraging to Job? When are you most aware of your need for a redeemer?
Who can you tell about the redeemer of all—Jesus? Of whom will you be an advocate this week? This is an excellent message to share with a prisoner, residents in a halfway house, or someone suffering in a hospital or a retirement center. Pray: Lord, defend and protect oppressed men, women, and nations! Keep your promise and save their lives.
I Am Forgotten
* God has turned relatives
and friends against me,
and I am forgotten.
My guests and my servants
consider me a stranger,
and when I call my servants,
they pay no attention.
My breath disgusts my wife;
everyone in my family
Young children can’t stand me,
and when I come near,
they make fun.
My best friends and loved ones
have turned from me.
I am skin and bones—
just barely alive.
My friends, I beg you for pity!
God has made me his target.
Hasn’t he already done enough?
Why do you join the attack?
I wish that my words
could be written down
or chiseled into rock.
I know that my Protector lives,
and at the end
he will stand on this earth.
My flesh may be destroyed,
yet from this body
I will see God.
Yes, I will see him for myself,
and I long for that moment.
- Job 19:13-27 -
It’s interesting to notice how often the Christians of the early Church were imprisoned. Although Christians were told that they should “obey the rulers and authorities and not . . . be rebellious” (Titus 3.1), the apostle Paul was often falsely accused and jailed many times by those who opposed his teachings. Faced with unjust, ungodly laws, Christians sometimes need to follow the path of civil disobedience. Here, Peter and the apostles lay down the ground rules: we must obey God rather than people. When the two come into conflict, God wins.
In years past, the Church had played a prominent role in civil disobedience. Christians helped with the Underground Railroad that saved the lives of thousands of escaping slaves in America. In World War II, Christians organized shelter for Jews escaping the Nazis. Christians have been prominent campaigners against apartheid, discrimination, and war, and have worked to achieve prison reform, good health care and public education for all.
There are higher laws. The demands of God are to be given priority over the demands of people and human institutions. The apostles were tried, abused, beaten. Why? Because they obeyed a higher calling from God.
Peter said, “We don’t obey people. We obey God” and was willing to face the consequences of such a statement. Are you in agreement with this statement? How do you show that you place God’s law above that of people? On the other hand, how can someone who is obedient to God work within the system?
How will you show your choice (obeying God) this week? What would cause you to protest against an unjust human law? What steps would you need to take first? Go on, stick your neck out. Support a group with whose action or campaign you can wholeheartedly agree. Pray: Lord, sometimes people need to have courage to be obedient to you above all else. This is true for those with power, and those without. I, too, need courage. You are an awesome God. Protect the rights of all, especially those who are oppressed.
Peter and the apostles replied:
- Acts 5:29-42 -
Often it seems as if violence is the only solution the world trusts. We are quick to resort to violence, always looking for the opportunity to lash out, launch missiles, or blow up innocent bystanders. Of course, sometimes there is no other option; sometimes evil must be resisted and the vulnerable protected by force. But that has to be a last resort, not an immediate response.
Instead, we should look for peaceful solutions. This is not weakness; arguing for peace is hard work. Take the writer of this psalm; he’s tired, he’s disillusioned, and he has lived too long among these people. He just can’t take it anymore. “Love your enemies,” says Jesus (Matthew 5.44). “Do your best to live at peace with everyone,” says Paul (Romans 12.18).
So we keep on going. Where there is conflict—in our world, in our communities, in our homes—the Christian way is to talk, to bring people together, to understand and, if possible, address grievances. We must speak out for peace among people who often speak only of war.
It’s not going to be easy. It’s a tough struggle, as this psalm shows. Peace, ironically enough, is worth fighting for, but not only with guns.
Where in your community is peace needed most? Where in the larger world? What qualities are needed to be a successful peacemaker?
How will you be an advocate of peace in your community? Pray for God’s peace to reign where there is chaos. Pray: Lord, I want to be your child and live at peace with people, encouraging others to do the same. Help me to be full of kindness and truth.
My life has too long had its dwelling with him who hates peace.
I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.
- Psalm 120:6-7 -