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To reflect on Jesus’ instruction to forgive always.

by Ann Husband

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To reflect on Jesus’ instruction to forgive always.

Preparation and materials

  • None.


  1. Ask how many of your audience watched any of the World Cup football back in July. It will probably be quite a lot. Ask, in particular, how many saw the final Group F match between Australia and Croatia.
  2. Say that anyone who did will remember it not so much for the quality of the football, but for the quality of the refereeing – or the lack of it.
  3. As some of you will recall, this game was refereed by Englishman, Graham Poll, who had been tipped as a possible World Cup Final ref, having been in the job for 26 years.
  4. That was until the official from Tring in Hertfordshire:

    (a) sent off Australia’s Brett Emerton and Croatia’s Dario Simic;

    (b) awarded the Australians a first-half penalty for handball by Stjepan Tomas but failed to spot an even more blatant handball by the same player after half-time;

    (c) missed Mark Viduka being bundled to the ground in the box during the first half;

    (d) overlooked the fact that Harry Kewell was offside when he scored Australia’s second equalizer.
  5. Infamously, Referee Poll’s worst offence was that he booked the Croatian player, Josip Simunic three times – showing him three yellow cards.
  6. According to the FIFA rules, players should only be given one yellow card – a second yellow card in a match results in an automatic sending-off. So it’s one chance then you’re back in the changing room with a red card.
  7. Mr Poll’s mistake was to forgive Simunic too many times and, as a result, his own reputation was in ruins. He was sent home from the World Cup and forced to retire from international matches.
  8. So how many times should we forgive someone who has done something wrong? Jesus was asked this very question by one of his disciples, Peter:

    ‘“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”’
  9. By this, Jesus did not mean literally 490 times, rather he meant that we should always forgive those who are genuinely sorry for what they have done.
  10. Jesus told the parable of the Unmerciful Servant to demonstrate what he meant. (Read Matthew 18.23–35.)
  11. Explain that although Graham Poll’s forgiveness towards Simunic was really a mistake for which he paid with his position, nevertheless the idea that we should always give someone another chance is in the spirit of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Time for reflection


(1) Still your audience and possibly ask them to close their eyes before saying:

Let us all bring to mind the times we have been unpleasant to other people.

Times we have lied,

times we have cheated,

times we have taken things belonging to others.

Let us consider how this makes us feel.


Now let us bring to mind the times that other people have been unpleasant to us.

As we would seek forgiveness from those we have hurt, so let us resolve today to forgive those who have hurt us.

(2) It is not enough to say let bygones be bygones. Indeed, just saying that ensures it will not be so. Reconciliation does not come easy. Believing it will ensure that it will never be. We have to work and look the beast firmly in the eyes. Ultimately you discover that without forgiveness, there is no future. Forgiveness is not vague, impractical and idealistic. It is thoroughly realistic.

(Archbishop Desmond Tutu)


Lord Jesus,

As rain cleanses the earth,

as food gives us strength and nourishment,

as sleep offers us refreshment,

so forgiveness brings us peace.


Help us to forgive those who have wronged us,

pardon us as we pardon others,

and bring your Kingdom ever closer.



‘The Lord’s Prayer’ (Come and Praise, 51)

Publication date: September 2006   (Vol.8 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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