Preaching Forgiveness

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” (I Cor. 5:18).

Each week, millions of Christians gather to hear the healing, saving, forgiving good news of the Gospel. With easy access to online sermons, audio sermons and powerful sermon illustrations, receiving the weekly Sunday Sermon has never been easier. The following stories of the power of forgiveness are examples of the effective use of sermon illustrations in the Sunday Sermon.

The lifestyle of the Babemba tribe in South Africa was featured a number of years ago in a TV documentary on Apartheid. Within that community, antisocial or criminal behavior is rare. However, when it does occur, the Babemba have an interesting and beautifully creative way of dealing with it.

If a member of the tribe acts irresponsibly, he or she is placed at the center of the village. Work stops, and every man, woman and child in the village gathers around the accused in a large circle. Then, one at a time, each individual, including the children, call out all the good things the person in the center of the ring has done previously. All the positive attributes and the kind acts are recited carefully and at length. No one is permitted to exaggerate or be facetious. It’s serious business!

Preaching Forgiveness

The ceremony often lasts for several days and doesn’t stop until everyone is drained of every positive comment he or she can muster about the transgressor. Not one word of criticism concerning the accused’s irresponsible, antisocial deed is permitted. At the end, the tribal circle breaks up, a joyous celebration begins, and he or she is welcomed back into the community. Apparently this overwhelming, positive bombardment strengthens the self-esteem of the accused, and causes that person to resolve to live up to the expectations of the tribe. Proof of the success of this creative response to wrongdoing seems evident in the fact that these ceremonies are quite rare. One wonders if, perhaps, borrowing from this technique might be a good idea, at least in certain family situations in which a member has gone astray.

Three men set out on a journey. Each carried two sacks around his neck — one in front and one in back. The first man was asked what was in his sacks. “In this one on my back,” he said, “I carry all the kind deeds of my friends. In that way they are out of sight and out of mind and I don’t have to do anything about them. They’re soon forgotten. This sack in front carries all the unkind things people do to me. I pause in my journey every day to take them out and air them, lest I forget them. It slows me down, but nobody gets away with anything.”

The second man was asked what was in his sacks. “In this one on my back, I keep all my bad deeds. I keep them behind me, out of my view. This sack in front carries my good deeds. I constantly keep them before me. I pause in my journey every day to take them out and air them, lest I forget them. It slows me down, but I take great pleasure in them.”

The third man was asked what was in his sacks. “I carry my friends’ kind deeds in this front sack,” he said. “It looks full, but it is not heavy. Far from slowing me down, it is like the sails of a ship. It helps me move ahead. The sack on my back has a hole in the bottom. That’s where I put all the evil I hear from others. It just falls out and is lost, so I have no burden to impede me.”


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