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Making mistakes (2)

To consider this quotation: ‘To err is human, to forgive divine’ (Alexander Pope).

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To consider this quotation: ‘To err is human, to forgive divine’ (Alexander Pope).

Preparation and materials

  • Prepare the list of mistakes (below) for the whiteboard or blackboard. Children will need to be able to move these about and put them in order of severity.

    I got three sums wrong today.
    I forgot to put my name at the top of my worksheet.
    I got mad and hit my friend.
    I didn’t listen to Mum and therefore forgot my packed lunch box.
    I laughed at my neighbour’s drawing.
    I didn’t use the Green Cross Code when crossing the road after school last night.
    I spilled blackcurrant juice on the living room carpet.
    I lost my library book.

  • Prepare a child to read Acts 9.3–9.


  1. The verb ‘to err’ means to do something wrong or to make a mistake. If you are human you will make mistakes. It is part and parcel of being human.

    Refer back to the previous assembly in this series (January) and ask the children to share what they have learned about making mistakes from it. Are any children brave enough to share their ‘happy accidents’ with the others at assembly today? Start them off by sharing a mistake you have made yourself this week!
  2. Display the list of mistakes and ask a few volunteers to help you discover that some mistakes are more serious than others. Put the list of mistakes in order of severity.
  3. Tell this story (from the New Testament of the Bible) about a man named Saul who made some very serious mistakes.

    Saul was a very clever and learned Jewish man who knew all about God’s laws and had spent all his life trying to keep them. He didn’t kill, he didn’t steal, he wasn’t jealous of what his neighbour had, he went to church regularly and gave money to the poor. In fact he was a very highly respected man.

    ‘There goes Saul,’ they would say. ‘What a good and godly man he is.’

    Well, he did seem just that, until a time when news started to spread in his district that many of the ordinary Jews were getting very excited about a new religious leader.

    That didn’t usually bother Saul. New leaders had come and gone many times. The trouble with this one was that he had done just that … and more! He had come, and he had gone. In fact Jesus, as he was called, had been such a blasphemer that the Jewish authorities had thankfully managed to get rid of him.

    Now, however, people were saying that he had come back again! He was supposed to have risen from the dead. At first it was just the sad disciples that claimed this resurrection, but as the days went by more and more people listened to the stories of Jesus rising from the dead and joined the band of followers. Surprisingly, these early disciples, common fishermen and tax collectors as they were, had become extremely good at speaking and encouraging others to join them.

    ‘We will put an end to this nonsense!’ Saul said angrily. He committed himself to searching out every one of these new followers of the so-called Jesus and putting them in prison. He had even watched while one young follower, Stephen, was stoned to death. That was just the beginning.

    Not content with rounding up the believers where he lived, Saul set off angrily to Damascus to seek out more of these people of ‘the Way’ as they called themselves, and to take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. On the way something happened to him!

    Listen as we hear from the Bible what that was.
  4. Ask a child to read Acts 9.3–9.

    Discuss what the word ‘persecuting’ means. God spoke personally to Saul and told him that he had made a big mistake!

    In the days that followed, Saul would discover that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. Saul had been wrong, and the disciples and the people of the Way, to whom he had been so cruel, had been right. And what about that young man Stephen he had watched being murdered? How could you live with a mistake like that?
  5. Let’s look again at today’s quotation. ‘To err is human, to forgive divine.’ God’s special power to forgive people for their mistakes is called ‘divine mercy’. God loves to forgive people. He knows that we will make mistakes. He knows that at times our mistakes can lead to terrible wrongs being done to other people. He wants to forgive us. He wants us simply to say sorry and to turn away from doing that thing again.

    His forgiveness certainly changed Saul. God gave Saul a new name, Paul, and told him to do a very big and important job. ‘Paul, you are to be the one who will take the message about Jesus to the whole non-Jewish world.’

    If Paul hadn’t got on and done that, you and I would never have known about Jesus.

Time for reflection


All mistakes can be forgiven by God.


Dear God,
Thank you that you understand us.
Thank you that you are divine and that you are able to forgive.
Thank you for the story of Saul.
Thank you that you forgave his mistake
and that you changed him into someone who blessed many other people.


‘Father, hear the prayer we offer’ (Come and Praise, 48)

Publication date: February 2009   (Vol.11 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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