God is a God of forgiveness, even in the face of evil. Since we are God’s people, we must be people of forgiveness, as well.
The Discussion Starter:
In the past 15 months, the religious extremists known as ISIS have been making news headlines on a consistent basis…and none of it for anything good. ISIS, the abbreviation for The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
, emerged from the ongoing conflict in Syria and northern Iraq and has been steadily taking land and resources in the Middle East, evicting millions of refugees from their homes along the way.
ISIS is comprised of certain Muslims with radical and violent ideologies who want to inflict their understanding of Islam on others. On numerous occasions, ISIS has killed innocent civilians in regions they’ve overrun. These terrorists have also been known to kidnap children and force them into battle as kid soldiers. The barbaric fighters think nothing of using rape as a weapon on the women in their destructive path, but they may be most infamous for their gruesome beheadings that they film and release to the world through Internet channels.
The most recent outbreak of ISIS’s hatred was felt in Paris, France, on November 13, 2015, where 130 people lost their lives, and approximately 350 more were injured, some very seriously.
It’s long been known that ISIS has declared war on the people of the cross, aka Christians. So, in response to ISIS’s ongoing global terror attacks, a group of western Christians working with Arab Christians created a video to share with the terrorists who work against love. Here’s how they describe the work you’re about to see:
As the world responds to the Islamic State with hatred and vengeance, there is one group that is responding differently. They are not allies with ISIS but enemies. And they have been slain by the thousands in the hands of ISIS. ISIS calls them The Nation of the Cross - The ones they have killed are bringing a message of forgiveness and hope. Declaring a love that they do not know - A love that reconciles even the worst of us and can make enemies into brothers.
This video addresses the terror of ISIS in frank – yet spiritual and accurate – terms. I want us to watch this with a somber mindset so we can discuss it from a mature and God-honoring position.
The Video Clip:
The video clip can be found at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSv4vBcFyvo
The video was essentially an invitation to members of ISIS to come to Jesus for forgiveness of their crimes of murder, rape, and terror. The invitation was extended by a group of Christians who’ve already received forgiveness of their sins by Jesus. It’s incredibly difficult to face the bitterness of murder and rape and terrorist attacks with a heart of compassion and forgiveness, but that’s what our world needs most right now. Our God is a God of forgiveness, wanting even the most evil among us to come to Him in search of eternal life. Since we are God’s people, we must be a people of that same kind of forgiveness, as well. We’re going to look at a simple passage of Scripture that will remind us of the forgiveness we’ve received from God that will hopefully challenge us to offer that same forgiveness to others.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: As we get started, let’s all take a second to share our names and the country you’d LEAST like to visit.
- ASK A FEW: What do you know about ISIS? What have you heard about them in the news?
- ASK A FEW: Think back in time if you can. What were your initial thoughts after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris?
- ASK A FEW: I know there was a lot of text to read during the video, but did any particular line stick out to you? What was it?
- ASK A FEW: Over and over again, what did the video invite the terrorists to do? Why is that so important? (Leaders – Time and again, the writers of the video invited the terrorists to “come to Jesus” in some way or another.)
- ASK A FEW: Is it possible for people to forgive others of crimes against humanity like these? How do you know?
- ASK A FEW: Yes, it’s totally cliché now, which is really sad, but what would Jesus say to the terrorists that perpetrated this vicious act in Paris?
Read the following passage:
ASK A FEW: What is God saying He wants to do with us in this passage?
ASK A FEW: How is the message in this passage like the message in the video?
ASK A FEW: In this passage, God says our sins are like scarlet and crimson. What is sin? Can you give some examples?
ASK A FEW: Essentially, God wants to forgive us. That’s what this passage is all about: an invitation to be forgiven of our sins. Why would God want to forgive us?
ASK A FEW: Does anyone know exactly how it is that God forgives us of our sin? (Leaders – Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf is the ONLY way we can be forgiven of our sins. You might want to reference John 14:6, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8, and Galatians 2:15-16 to explain the significance of Jesus’ life.)
ASK A FEW: Can a person still face punishment from God and others if they’ve been forgiven by Jesus? Why or why not? (Leaders – Simply put, yes. Just because a person has been forgiven by God doesn’t mean he or she escapes their rightful punishment.)
ASK A FEW: This is a huge question, and maybe everyone here isn’t comfortable in answering it. However, I’ll go ahead and ask it and let you decide how to participate. Here goes: Have you been forgiven of your sins by God…and how do you know?
ASK A FEW: If God has been willing to forgive you of your sins, how should you treat the sins of others, even the sins of ISIS?
ASK A FEW: How do you think God wants to use us in the aftermath of this violent act?
AROUND THE CIRCLE: What’s one thing you can do this week to share the forgiveness of God with others who need His love?
Isaiah 1:18-19 (NIV)
“Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.
It’s never easy to watch scenes like 9-11 or the terrorist attacks in Paris. They can be disheartening and unnerving. And then, after all the terror has subsided, rage and malice and revenge can set in. We can want to hurt those who’ve hurt others. And in the midst of all that turmoil, the God of the Bible is quietly offering peace and forgiveness and love to each and every single one of us, sinner, terrorist, and all.
We’ve seen humanity at its worst: killing, raping, and destroying the lives of others. And, in the passage from Isaiah, we’ve seen God at his best: offering forgiveness to the worst of us. Like we talked about earlier, our God is a God of forgiveness. That’s what God does best.
The two big questions I want you to wrestle with for a moment are these: first, have you been forgiven, and second, are you willing to forgive others?
If you haven’t been forgiven by Jesus, chances are good that you will be unwilling to forgive others. If you have been forgiven by Jesus, it may still be very difficult for you, but that is what God expects of you. God is a God of forgiveness; He wants His people to be forgiving, as well.
If you have been forgiven by Jesus, I’d like to bring you back to the last question we talked about in our small groups. What’s one thing you can do this very week to help others understand the forgiveness God wants them to have?
As we close in prayer, I’m going to give you a few moments to pray quietly by yourselves. I hope you’ll lift up someone you know who needs to be forgiven by Jesus. I hope you’ll let God lead you as you pray. Listen to Him speak. He just might tell you to talk with someone who needs to hear about His love and forgiveness.
Close in Prayer
Written by David R Smith