Monday Musing: Accursed for their sake...
In the opening verses of the 9th chapter of Romans, Paul laments that fact that Israel, “to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises,” had, by and large, rejected Jesus’ title of Messiah. The biological descendants of Abraham were rejecting their eternal and spiritual heritage. In his lament, Paul makes a statement that has caused me much bewilderment. He writes, “I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren…(the) Israelites.”
The idea that Paul so loved and cared for a group of people that he would forfeit his own salvation to accomplish their’s was inconceivable; it, quite literally, was beyond my comprehension. Perhaps it was because all my family, my brothers, sisters, and parents, are all believers. My wife is also a believer and has been since early childhood. I’ve had passing acquaintances through work and school that were not Christians, but while I prayed for them and shared my beliefs with them, I never experienced the heart-breaking grief that Paul describes here.
Not, that is, until I had children.
This morning I was sitting on the couch holding my one-year old son as he rested his head on my chest and we watched the news together and in that moment, I felt Paul’s anguish. When I put my children to bed, or have a quiet moment with them (rare quiet moments where my three-year-old is concerned) I often use those moments to pray over them. I always feel a kind of desperate longing when I pray for their relationship to and with God, but this morning, perhaps because Paul’s grief was fresh on my mind, I felt it in a particularly acute way. I would have, in that moment, traded my salvation for that of my kids if I was able.
Lest we mistake Paul’s cry here for deep, but empty, sentimentality, let’s remember that he risked his life on a regular basis sharing the Gospel. And while his primary focus was to minister to the Gentiles, this was only after he faced death in his attempt to reach his kinsmen. Therefore, like Paul, our longing to see others redeemed, family, friends, or otherwise, ought to be as practical as it is powerful. To stop at strong emotion is to stop well before we do any good. It is one thing to share Paul’s sentiment, it is quite another to share his work ethic. If we can only choose one, let’s choose the latter. Don’t just wish for people to know Christ, work for it.