Pentecost +18 – Year A
To reveal what is going on in the church it is helpful to take a look at another system and reflect it back into the church setting. A part of the reason this is so helpful is the lack of perspective we so often have on our own junk.
When it comes to forgiveness, Jesus looks at a most unforgiving system – the power system of the day. This is still a good thing to do in our day. In the United States of America the political season is nearing the championship game (and as long as we frame it athletically it will continue to devolve). Many a speech has said no more than, "My Friends . . . God bless America" [kudos to the Daily Show with Jon Stewart for this observation] and it is this lack of standards that allows power to do what power wants to do - it is not even held accountable to its own words, which it changes to get what it wants because most folks don't pay attention enough to remember how the opposite was just posited and then denied.
Forgiveness, as simply forgiveness, is, on its own merits alone, eternally elusive. Our resistance to forgiveness and desire for power seem to require a punishment if forgiveness is not forthcoming. Without the extra motivation of fear of retribution, we don't seem to engage forgiveness with our lives and the lives of others. We keep missing the essential simplicity of, "forgive." Our resistance to receiving and/or giving forgiveness leads to forever parsing out when forgiveness is appropriate. The best question that can be asked at this point is, "when is forgiveness not appropriate?"
If you respond that forgiveness is not appropriate for those who have been forgiven and then don't forgive, you've missed the point.