Reading in Luke, I read Jesus' story of poor Lazarus eating the dog scraps outside of the house of the rich man . . . and then of their subsequent deaths and fates, and of the rich man's concern for the eternal well-being of his brothers . . . and of Abraham's statement that they had Moses and the prophets, and that if they did not repent based on the words of Moses and the prophets, they would not repent based on the words of one raised from the dead to lead them to repentance. And directly out of that story, the narrative goes here:
He said to His disciples, "It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him."
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you. Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down to eat'? But will he not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink'? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'" (Luke 17:1-10)
It is amazing to me how central forgiveness is to His kingdom. It is central in His prayer with which He taught the disciples to pray. It is central in his view here of a repentance that will avoid the fate of the rich man. And even His teaching about the power of faith here was in response to the disciples dismay at the command to forgive so freely.
My life is little boys, big boys, baseball moms and dads, family, church, and my wonderful wonderful friends. Diane and I have been learning together what forgiveness is -- how drastic it is! And a big part of that is not just forgiving those we need to forgive. A big part of that is practicing appropriate repentance and humility in seeing where we lack the Kingdom and how we hurt others or fail others, and in verbally asking for forgiveness and then in backing that up by taking real steps to act differently as we walk forward.
My mom asked me for forgiveness almost daily as I grew up. She was a great mom, and probably actually needed a lot less forgiveness than most moms do. But she knew that her actions and attitudes would "train me up" more than her "training" would, and she knew that every relationship is fragile, and requires the nourishment of the words and actions tied to repentance and forgiveness in order to continue on in openness and intimacy and love. And she knew -- and knows -- that relationships are life, and it is there that the kingdom takes root and grows.
Now it is me asking my kids for forgiveness each day, because there is much in how I treat them and in how I manage my life that is not what I want for them when they are adults -- and is not what I want for me. And I hope they become men who can tell their wives, and their friends, and their children, and their bosses, and their employees, and their whole circle of influence: "I blew it there. I was wrong to do this. I should have done this instead. I will try to do it differently next time. Please forgive me, and hold me accountable to change." I hope they become men who use words to do this, and don't assume that words don't fix anything anyway, and so shouldn't be bothered with. I hope they use words, and then back them up with lives that change and grow visibly in response to this kind of daily obedience to Jesus walked out in the humility of actual repentance from actual sins.
If my boys become men like that, I will rejoice at the fruit God has brought through my life! Because men like that -- and women like that -- will bring the Kingdom. God's kingdom comes with power through the lives of those who know they are sinners enough to admit it in everything, big and little, and allow His grace to bring changed behavior, changed relationships, changed character, and a changed world.