Begin today’s lesson by discussing with your class the meaning and role of forgiveness in their lives.
- What does it mean to forgive someone? (The dictionary defines forgiveness as, “to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake.”)
- We all commit offenses, flaws, and mistakes, but how does it feel to have the wronged party forgive us for what we have done? (It can feel like an enormous weight is lifted off our shoulders, like we have our life back.)
- If it can feel so good and mean so much when someone forgives us for something bad we did, why then do we so often hold onto grudges and resentment toward people who have wronged us? (Often, we refuse to forgive because we don’t yet feel that the other person has earned it.)
- What kind of damage is caused by holding onto resentment? (Holding onto bitterness can affect us spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Allow your students to share specific consequences they have experienced or can think of.)
In recent history, there are few stories that better illustrate the internal mental damage caused by harboring bitterness than that of Marvin Heemeyer. The recently released documentary Tread looks back at Mr. Heemeyer’s rampage across the town of Granby, Colorado in 2004, that resulted in the destruction of 13 structures and a lot of damage. The director looks at what sustaining anger, revenge, and resentment can lead to. The following is a short news story about the documentary.
Play the following video [3:06] You could stop after 2:17:
‘Tread’ documentary looks back at Granby bulldozer rampage
Much investigation has gone into what exactly caused Mr. Heemeyer to construct his tank and destroy the town. Accounts from friends and written statements recovered on his property point toward a dispute with city officials and a neighboring concrete company that ultimately resulted in Heemeyer being forced to abandon his muffler shop—events that became the catalyst for the destruction that transpired.
Some people may think Heemeyer is a hero for standing up to the government and calling attention to corruption, but had he released the hate and bitterness he held in his heart by forgiving these people, he would still be alive today.
Ultimately, we have all had things done to us that we need to let go of, and likewise have done things we need mercy for. Marvin Heemeyer’s tragic history of hate illustrates that a life without forgiveness leads to destruction.
Thankfully, God has promised us both the strength to forgive and absolution for our sins as long as we are willing to repent. Today, we’ll look at the story of one young man who had done a lot of things he wasn’t proud of—let’s see whether he experienced forgiveness or not.