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Lesson Note

Subject: Christian Religious Studies
Topic: Forgiveness (Phelomon 1)

Learning Objectives: At the end of the lesson, learners should be able to:
i. State the meaning of forgiveness,
ii. Indicate how to receive forgiveness for their sins,
iii. Recognise the need to forgive others.


Forgiveness means to pardon a person; to allow somebody who deserves punishment to go free. It is not every offence that attracts punishment but it may cause the offended person to hold blame or resentment against his offender. Where the offended person has decided to forgive his offender, it therefore follows that he would no longer blame or hold any resentment against his offender. Forgiveness may be achieved in three ways:
i. When the offender realizes his mistake and decides to ask for pardon; in this case he may be pardoned and the issue is resolved.
ii. The offended person may on his part, due to love of God, voluntarily decide to pardon his offender.
iii. The third case is when a third party decides to intervene in the matter and reconcile the parties concerned.
In whichever way it is achieved, forgiveness is very important in people’s daily life.

The Importance And Implications Of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is very important in the life of every individual in the society, particularly in the life of Christians. Some could not achieve happy Christian life not because they have lived reckless lives, but because they have allowed bitterness and unforgiveness to block the flow of joy in their lives. Stubborn attitude and unforgiving spirit would never allow happiness to penetrate the life of such individual.
Bitterness and unforgiveness are evil phenomena in the life of a person and the society at large. Unforgiveness may deteriorate to serious problem such as war which could bring total ruin to the society concerned or to the life of an individual as the case may be. Where people are able to forgive others, there is peace, harmony and progress. It is ability of Christians to forgive others that makes God to forgive them when they offend Him.
The importance of forgiveness is inexhaustible. This explains the reason why the Lord Jesus Christ, during his earthly ministry, took time to teach both the multitude and the disciples on the need to forgive one another.

St. Paul’s Teaching on Forgiveness

In Paul’s epistle to his friend, Philemon, a Colossians Christian, St. Paul played a reconciliatory role between his friend Philemon and his runaway slave, Onesimus who Paul converted to Christianity. St. Paul appealed to Philemon to compassionately take back his former servant, Onesimus. The offence of Onesimus was not stated, but he appealed to Philemon to forgive Onesimus whatever offence he might have committed and take him back, this time not as a slave, but as a brother. Paul, to show how sincere and how concerned he was, told Philemon to charge to his account any amount Onesimus must have owed him.

Significance /Lessons To Learn

i. St. Paul’s epistle to Philemon is a typical example of how a person should intervene and reconcile two quarreling or warring parties. St. Paul was sincere and honest in his appeal and was prepared to take extra responsibility by accepting to pay the debt of Onesimus, if there was any. In the same way, whenever one decides to intervene in any dispute between two individuals, one should be sincere in whatever approach one takes.
ii. Christians should equally be prepared to take responsibility like Paul to ensure peace.
iii. Paul asked Philemon to take Onesimus as a brother, not as a slave. This shows that as Christians, we should treat everybody as equal. Housekeepers should be allowed to enjoy equal privileges with other children in the home. There should be no racial discrimination among Christians.
iv. Above all, to forgive others is divine in that forgiveness is the basis on which Christians can seek for divine intervention of God in their case.
v. Furthermore, an act of forgiveness should go beyond the mere action of forgiving but should include rehabilitation and reconcilation.
vi. It teaches the lesson of justification by Faith in which man who stands condemned before God because of sin, is automatically forgiven and acquitted of his sin through the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ.
vii. As Christians, we should intercede for others as Paul did for Onesimus.
viii. Forgiveness of our sins by God depends on the extent to which we forgive others. When we forgive, it shows obedience to Chris’s injunction which commands us to forgive others their sins so that God can forgive our own sins.
ix. Forgiveness restores peace and love in a family, community and the country at large.

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Take a quick test for this lesson
i. How did Paul reconcile Onesimus with Philemon? What can we learn about forgiveness from this letter?
ii. Give the main features of Paul’s letter to Philemon
iii. State two reasons why a Christian should forgive others.
iv. How did Paul use the case of Onesimus to emphasize the concept of forgiveness?
v. Give the highlights of Paul’s letter to Philemon
vi. Explain the term forgiveness.
Questions answered correctly? Kudos!

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