Irenaeus of Lyons: Compassion and Debt

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And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12

“By remitting sins, He did indeed heal man, while He also manifested Himself who He was. For if no one can forgive sins but God alone, while the Lord remitted them and healed men, it is plain that He was Himself the Word of God made the Son of man, receiving from the Father the power of remission of sins; since He was man, and since He was God, in order that since as man He suffered for us, so as God He might have compassion on us, and forgive us our debts, in which we were made debtors to God our Creator…As by means of a tree we were made debtors to God, so also by means of a tree we may obtain remission of our debt.”

Irenaeus of Lyons in Against Heresies 5.17.2 in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905) 545.

When I saw the fall colors this weekend and shot this photo of the trees by the entry to our townhouse development, it made me think of this famous excerpt from Irenaeus of Lyons: “As by means of a tree we were made debtors to God, so also by means of a tree we may obtain remission of our debt.” Think about this for a moment with me.

The tree by my home was red, the color of blood shed for us to heal us out of compassion. Our mess started when we took from a forbidden tree. As I think about the compassion of God toward us, in making a way for us to obtain remission of our debts, I think about how generous He is and how we must spread that generosity to others because we have been healed.

Then I thought about today’s Scripture. We must be people who forgive if we expect our sins to be forgiven. We get to be compassionate healers. We get to share the love we have received when we were undeserving. This is my prayer for the board, staff, and regional facilitators of GTP as we gather online for four days of meetings this week from all over the world.

God thanks for forgiving us, for healing our brokenness on a tree, because of your great compassion and love. When we see the colors changing on trees, may we be reminded what changed because of your work on a tree for us through Jesus Christ our Lord. And by your Holy Spirit, help us forgive others and compassionately help them find healing in You. Amen.