Isaac of Syria on God's Goodness

Isaac of Nineveh. (image in public domain)

Isaac of Nineveh. (image in public domain)

I found these words from Isaac of Syria today. They are a good followup to the Gospel lesson for last Sunday from Luke in which Jesus tells the parable we commonly call The Prodigal Son. Isaac of Nineveh was a seventh-century bishop and monk whose fame is great throughout the Eastern Churches. He was for a short time Bishop of Nineveh in what is now Northern Iraq before retiring to a life of solitude, prayer and writing. His writings from solitude are now known the world over, and especially treasured among our Eastern Orthodox friends. His writings now are inspiring people well beyond the sphere of Eastern Christianity. He has a timeless message of God’s compassion borne out of deep prayer and study of the Scriptures and his love of Jesus Christ.

Do not hate the sinner. Become a proclaimer of God’s grace, seeing that God provides for you even though you are unworthy.

Although your debt to God is very great, there is no evidence of him exacting any payment from you, whereas in return for the small ways in which you do manifest good intention, he rewards you abundantly. Do not speak of God as ‘just’, for his justice is not in evidence in his actions toward you.

How can you call God just when you read the gospel lesson concerning the hiring of the workmen in the vineyard? How can someone call God just when he comes across the story of the prodigal son who frittered away all his belongings in riotous living - yet merely in response to his contrition his father ran and fell on his neck, and gave him authority over all his possessions?

In these passages it is not someone else speaking about God; had that been the case, we might have had doubts about God’s goodness. No, it is God’s own Son who testifies about him in this way.

Where then is this ‘justice’ in God, seeing that, although we were sinners, Christ died for us? If he is so compassionate in this, we have faith that he will not change.

A.M. Allchin, editor, Sebastian Brock, translator: Daily Readings with St. Isaac of Syria. (Templegate, 1990), 57.