Have you ever wronged somebody? I mean truly wronged somebody. Maybe you yelled at co-workers, gossiped behind a friend’s back (who then found out), or even told blatant lies about someone you had never met. All of these are bad, sinful, but forgiveness is something that God gives us, both in His forgiveness of our sins and in our ability to forgive others.
CPH’s newest youth Bible study, Courage That Defies Death, asks youth to consider how much courage they possess. Are they using the courage God has given all of us to its potential? Do they have the courage to stand up to their bullies for what’s right? Have they lacked courage when it comes to peer pressure and decided to do something when they knew it was wrong?
What Courage Do You Possess?
Courage takes, well, a lot of courage. It’s difficult to stand up for things when we know that it might get us ridiculed or hurt, but the strength to stand up against these evils can also bring great joy. Imagine your youth finding the strength to stand up to their bully and learning that their bully picked on them only because the bully lacked socialization with people but yearned for it. Imagine the pride your youth would feel when they say no to peer pressure and mean it, being able to stay away from those things that pull them away from Christ.
Even more important, imagine your youth being able to ask for forgiveness in every situation, no matter how difficult that situation may be. Perhaps they wronged someone to the point where the other person’s character was harmed. While I would hope no one would ever do such a thing, youth sometimes have a blurry line between what’s right and what’s popular. Do they possess the kind of courage Jacob did when he sinned against Esau and needed to ask for forgiveness?
“Today, we look at Jacob. His kind of courage probably isn’t the kind we often think of—like a firefighter charging into a burning building or a police officer running toward the sounds of gunfire. His situation was a result of his own sin and guilt, and he needed courage to face up to a sin he had committed twenty years before—and had been running away from ever since.”
The Courage of Forgiveness
Does that sound like your youth? I know it sounds like me when I was in high school. Teenagers have always been caught in a web of either being wronged or of wronging someone. Revenge is apparent, and the web thickens the longer this continues. Our teenagers need the courage to forgive others, ask for forgiveness from others, and even forgive themselves. For today’s teenagers though, this can be even more difficult to do than before, especially when dealing with egos, social media, and high school popularity contests.
It’s difficult to face the people you have wronged. It’s even easier these days to hurt people, especially when you can hide behind a screen, a username, or an entirely fake profile. There is a need for an extra dose of courage to come forward, admit to your sins, and ask for forgiveness.
Asking for forgiveness from someone means understanding the two parts of forgiveness: first, that you were wrong; and second, that you need to repent for this wrongness. Many teenagers understand the first part; the guilt that comes after doing something wrong can sit in your gut for hours, days, weeks. The second part, repenting and asking for forgiveness, is the difficult part to understand and do because it means facing the person you have wronged. Teenagers know that admitting one's faults can come with ridicule; teens always love to find someone to blame. But for those who see Christ as their ultimate and only judge, asking for forgiveness is necessary and shows their true faith in the Lord. They’re showing their courage to do what’s right under Christ, rather than what’s popular under society.
I Was Forgiven, So We’re Friends Now, Right?
There’s a layer to this that youth may not understand though: just because you ask for forgiveness doesn’t mean that the person forgiving you has to like you again. This is incredibly difficult to understand on both sides of the equation. Neither party has to agree to like the other again, but the simple act of asking for forgiveness is the first step in showing God’s love.
“It wasn’t up to Jacob to make Esau love and accept him—that was between Esau and God. It is also not up to you to win back the friend or classmate you hurt—just confess your sin and ask their forgiveness. If they don’t forgive you—that’s between God and them—their refusal to forgive doesn’t destroy your relationship with God through Jesus.”
What will you have the courage to do in the new year? Will you have the courage to forgive those who wronged you? Will you have the courage the ask for forgiveness from those whom you have wronged? Most important, as a youth leader, are you prepared to set an example for your youth in the world? After all, the best leaders are those who use their own advice and set an example for those around them.
For more information on the new youth Bible study and how you can teach your youth to have more courage, download a sample of Courage That Defies Death below.