Jesus had strong words for his disciples. Look back at 18:6-9 for the imprecation against the strong interfering with the humble. He commanded them to seek the ones who stray and to bring them back into the fold (10-15).
But, what happens when that sheep is back in the fold and you would really rather have him leave. Last week's gospel lesson outlined a procedure for helping the church member change behavior. "If he won't change," Jesus said, "Treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector."
[Look back at Matthew 9:9-10 and 14:21-15.]
Now Peter asks, "How many times do we have to go through this procedure before we can give up on somebody?" Jesus' response is a number too big to keep track of.
Don't read this message as a word to those who are being abused that they need to stay in relationship with someone who will continue to harm them.
Don't read these words of Jesus as saying that sin does not matter. This message is to Peter. If the church is going to make it, then church members have to work together.
On a tangent: Am I right to read a requirement for repentance to precede Peter's forgiveness? After all, in the parable, the debtor begs the king for forgiveness.
The Power of Forgiveness (http://www.thepowerofforgiveness.com/) explores recent research into the psychological and physical effects of forgiveness on individuals and within relationships under a wide variety of conditions and translates it into a popular, accessible documentary film for national public television.
The film also explores the role forgiveness holds in various faiths traditions. It provides an honest look at the intensity of anger and grief that human nature is heir to. We see in the film that there are transgressions people find themselves unwilling or unable to forgive. Through character-driven stories the film shows the role forgiveness can play in alleviating anger and grief and the physical, mental and spiritual benefits that come with it.
This includes feature stories on the Amish, the 9/11 tragedy and peace-building in Northern Ireland, along with interviews with renowned Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, best-selling authors Thomas Moore and Marianne Williamson and others.
And take a quiz to see how forgiving you are.
(Thanks to the heads-up from Alive Now, September/October 2008 that alerted me to this website.)