Genesis 45: 1-15; 50:20
Total forgiveness is not only God saying, "I forgive" but proving how much he wants us to believe it. He wants to put the case before us so convincingly that we say "He really does forgive me."
The only kind of forgiveness that is worth anything, in any case, is total forgiveness. It might said like this: the only kind of forgiveness that I would want from you is total forgiveness. If I have offended and hurt you, and you say that you forgive me, well, I would be glad to know that. But I might doubt that you really meant it. You would need to demonstrate to me that you really mean it.
What is total forgiveness? There are five principles, all of which come out of this story of Joseph:
First, total forgiveness is demonstrated to us when someone shows that he doesn't want anybody else to know what we have done to him. If, when you forgive me, you make it clear that you don't want anybody to know what I have done to you, that would be authentic forgiveness.
1. What was the first thing that Joseph did? After Judah finished his speech, Joseph cried, "Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him" (Gen. 45:1).
2. It is the unforgiving spirit that wants to let the world know our own hurt. Love hides a multitude of sins. It is hate that wants to let the cat out of the bag. Hate wants everybody to know we have been hurt: "Here's what so and so did to me."… 'Total forgiveness is when we protect the one we forgive.
So Joseph said, "Send everybody out."
That is the way God forgives.
Second, total forgiveness wants to make a person feel completely at ease. Joseph's brothers could not answer him, for they were "troubled at his presence" (Gen. 45:3). Therefore Joseph said to them, "Come near to me, I pray you."
1. Why did he say that? He wanted them to be at ease in his presence. He wanted them to know by the look on his face that there was no hate whatever. In his eyes there was no feeling of vengeance-not the slightest desire to make them feel uneasy.
2. Hate hopes that another will feel uneasy. When we don't forgive, we want that other person to feel uncomfortable in our presence. "Come on, draw near, come close to me. I'm Joseph."
Third, total forgiveness will not even allow the person to feel bad or angry with himself. Joseph said, 'I am Joseph your brother whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves" (v 5, italics mine).
1. That is Joseph. He is saying, in effect, "Look. I know how you're going to react to this. Your immediate reaction is to feel awful. I don't want you to feel bad. Don't even feel angry with yourselves."
2. But how do most people tend to "forgive"? Sometimes we say "Well, I forgive you, but I hope you realize what you've done. I hope you feel bad about it."
Fourth, you make it easy for that person to forgive himself: we do it in such a way that it is obvious we really do forgive.
1. This can be done. Joseph put it like this: "Be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life" (v 5). In other words, behind all that had happened was a sovereign God looking out after them. And so Joseph said, "For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years [five years to come, in which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance" (vv 6-7).
We now come to the most sublime statement in all the story of Joseph, "It was not you that sent me hither, but God" (v 8; see Gen. 50:20). "It wasn't you. It was God."
How do you suppose that made them feel? I can tell you, it suddenly gave them a sense of dignity a sense of worth, a way of saving face, a way of coping, a way of looking forward to the future.
2. The proof of total forgiveness is this: we make it easy for the person to forgive himself. For the only forgiveness that is worth anything is that which makes it possible for us to forgive ourselves. It is one thing to say "God forgives." It is another to forgive ourselves.
Fifth, total forgivenss is demonstrated when we keep someone's sin hidden from the person who means most to him.
1. Now what do you suppose the ten brothers feared most of all? It was that Jacob their father would hear the truth. I suspect that these ten brothers could endure anything in the world but that. Total forgiveness is our not wanting the sin to be revealed where it would hurt most of all. We tend to threaten, don't we, and say 'Wait until so and so hears this." … “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psa. 103:12). Our sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus.
2. God doesn't want us to feel sorry after he says, 'I forgive you." But he only demonstrates his forgiveness when you are sorry. Joseph knew they were sorry And when he saw they were sorry he said, “That's enough. No more. I'm not going to let you feel bad.”
(*Romans 8:28 is not set into operation as long as you feel a need to justify what you once did. If you have done something that was wrong but have stuck to your guns and justified it, the promise of Romans 8:28 will be postponed. But the moment you say, 'I don't see how it could ever work together for good-what I have done is so bad," God steps in and says, Leave the past to me.)
Finally God doesn't want our help in helping him to make things work together for good. As long as we meddle and try to do something that will help things, God won't do a thing. It will just get worse. But if we will take our hands off, God takes over to show his power and his love.
Look at what we are, and think that God totally forgives and applys these principles to us!