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The 50/20 Principle of Forgiveness
by Rev. Craig Bard
Read Genesis 50:15-20
In the Bible there are three Josephs that were associated with Christ. One at his birth, Joseph the husband of Mary, another at his death, Joseph of Arimathea a rich man who John tells us “was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews” (John 19:38). He asked Pilate for the body of Jesus and laid Him in the tomb he had cut out for himself.
And the third Joseph, the son of Jacob, who is the greatest representation of Jesus in the Old Testament. There was no one more similar to Christ in the Old Testament than the patriarch Joseph. One of ways Joseph was like Jesus was his willingness to forgive those who intended to destroy him. There is no more shining example of grace in all the Old Testament than the verse 20. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20).
The grace of Joseph points to the grace of Jesus.
Joseph was Jacob’s eleventh son and his favorite. He was despised by his brothers because his father had favored him with a special coat of many colors and because of his dreams which revealed them bowing to him. They concocted a plan to sell Joseph as a slave and eventually he ended up in prison after being falsely accused by his master’s wife. His feet were placed in fetters and he was shackled by irons (Psalm 105:18). But he did not grow bitter about his situation.
Through God’s hand upon him in interpreting a dream for Pharaoh he was released from seventeen years of prison and became Pharaoh’s chief steward and head over all the affairs of Egypt. Just as he had dreamed his brothers bowed before him when famine came to Goshen.
Yet Joseph did not use this as an occasion to gloat or punish his brothers. He told them that their evil was God’s plan to bring him to that moment to save the people of Egypt. Even though it was his brothers and not enemies that betrayed him it is very obvious that Joseph forgave them.
II. The subject of Forgiveness
Locked up in the word “forgiveness” is a message that holds the key to spiritual life, health and vitality. Lamentations 3:22-23says, The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Let me give you three things God does when forgiving our sins.
First, He removes our transgressions as far as the east from the west (Psalm 103:22). Notice He didn’t say north from south. North and south are defined as being in the direction of the Earth's poles. Once you reach the North Pole, you can't travel north anymore, anywhere you go is south. Meanwhile, east and west are defined as circles that wrap around the globe and are parallel to each other. Traveling east or west is different because there is no East or West poles. You can travel east for eternity and never run into west. What a picture of the grace of God!
Second, God declared that He would cast our sins into the depth of the sea (Micah 7:19). At its deepest point the ocean is five miles deep. You could sink the tallest mountain in the world into the depth of the sea and it would be almost submerged. The astonishing thing about this simile is if the largest battleship in the world were lowered into the depth of the ocean it would be crushed like an eggshell because of the pressure and intensity of the water at this level. Come to think of it: That is what God does with our sins. He crushes them in the depth of the sea and hangs out a sign which reads, “No fishing!”
Third, Isaiah 38:17 tells us God casts our repented sins behind His back. No matter how hard a person tries they cannot read something that is attached to their back. While God is omniscient this verse is another way of telling us that God remembers forgiven sin no more. He is faithful and just to cleanse us from all sin.
III. Jesus teaching on Forgiveness
Mark 11:24-26 (NKJV) Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."
Jesus not only taught forgiveness; He practiced it. Upon the cross of Calvary he prayed, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). Not only did He practice forgiveness; He taught it. In the model prayer of Matthew 6:9-15, Jesus stated that we should forgive our debtors.
Once Peter came to Christ and asked how often in a day a person should forgive another? He thought he would be generous so he suggested, “seven times?” The Jewish custom only prescribed three times. Jesus told him not just seven, but seventy times seven. In other words, Jesus was telling Peter that a person should live in perpetual forgiveness.
During a flood, there was a bear and a skunk were seen floating on piece of wood together. The moral of the story: You never know who you will have to buddy up with when trouble comes!
The person to whom you refuse to forgive actually controls your thoughts and your life. You play those resentments like a record player in your mind. You spend all your time and energy thinking about how you are going to get even. You imagine them crawling back and admitting how they wronged you begging for forgiveness. You lay awake all night plotting and scheming and you’re only hurting yourself. The other person is home sleeping like a baby while you’re making yourself sick. Stop it! About 90% of the time the other person has no idea that they’ve hurt you let alone how to make amends for it.
Jesus told a parable in Matthew 18 about a servant who owed a king 10,000 talents. A talent was equivalent to seventy five pounds. It was the total weight a man could normally carry (2 Kings 5:23). Ten thousand talents would be 750,000 pounds or 375 tons. The price of gold, on Tuesday when I wrote this was $1092 per ounce. A talent of gold would be worth about $985,320. This servant would owe his master nearly $10 Billion (9,853,200,000). He begged forgiveness and the king promptly forgave him.
Going home he discovered that one of his servants owed him one hundred denarii. A denarius was approximately equal to a laborer’s daily wage. One hundred denarii would equal about $4000. That is a lot of money to me but in comparison to his debt to the king the debt owed the servant was minute. However, he took him by the throat and demanded that he pay up. Upon hearing of the unforgiveness of his servant the king became enraged that the servant would not himself forgive after having received forgiveness himself.
It is important that we realize Jesus was not referring to unbelievers in this story. The servant (of the king) had his debt forgiven (salvation) but he would not forgive a fellow servant. One of the sternest statements of the New Testament is seen in verses 32-35. “Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” WHAT A POWERFUL STATEMENT!
Once John Wesley was conversing with an army general when word was brought of a soldier found in minor disobedience. When the subject of forgiving came up the general said, “I never forgive.” Wesley responded, “Then, I hope, sir, that you never sin.”
IV. How to live in forgiveness
The first key to living in forgiveness is to daily practice the presence of Jesus Christ. No wrong to us can ever compare to the things Christ had to face. If anyone had a right to destroy his enemies it should have been Jesus. But he forgave. So should we. In sharing the signs of the final days, Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
Notice he is not speaking about the lost living in unforgiveness but those of the church who have a form of godliness. It is important that we note that a form of religion and unforgiveness walk hand in hand. The only way to keep from having a form of godliness is to practice the presence of Christ daily. This means following his example in all things, including forgiveness. 2 Corinthians 5:18 says, All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
The second key to living in forgiveness is that we should develop a heart that is understanding of others. This does not mean that we understand why people act the way they do, but we should attempt to put ourselves into the other person’s shoes. There are often several external and internal issues that cause people to bring injury to others. Learn to look beyond the offense and love the person who has offended you. When Joseph’s brothers bowed before him in Genesis he tried to act as if he did not know them. Eventually, he could restrain himself no longer and began to weep so loudly that even the Egyptians heard him (45:1). In the 50/20 principle Joseph pointed out to them that his understanding brought him to realize that God’s plan had been enacted.
Third, we should immediately forgive when first feeling the tinge of bitterness or injury. The longer a person waits the more difficult it will be to forgive. A hidden grudge is like a termite: It eats and destroys when we hide it but when brought to light, it dries up and dies. That is why forgiveness should be a lifestyle, not an act. Forgiveness is therapeutic for the individual who has been wronged. It is also a bridge to reconciliation. Hebrews 12:15 speaks of a root of bitterness springing up into our life and troubling us.
One of the most remarkable things said about Abraham Lincoln was that his heart had no room for the memory of a wrong. When a person says, “I will forgive but will not forget,” they are saying “I can overlook a wrong but I am not really forgiving the injury.”
Fourth, after you have forgiven refuse to speak in negative terms about the situation or the person who wronged you. This is so tough. Someone else will talk to us about their problem and, strangely, it resembles ours so before we know it, we are discussing the wrong that was imposed upon us. In fact, you have to purposely find something positive to say about the offender to overcome this inclination.
The 50/20 Principle reminds us that we are all human beings in need of forgiveness ourselves. And Jesus said that the measure of our heavenly Father’s forgiveness will be meted according to our forgiveness of those who have offended us. Put plainly if you want to be forgiven, you have to forgive, without exception.