“I speak the truth in Christ — I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.”
How much do I love my brothers?
Enough to serve them selflessly? Yes, on rare occasion.
Enough to die for them? If given the chance to be a hero, I suppose it is possible I might act impulsively and give my life for that opportunity, as long as my death was quick and relatively painless.
Enough to give up my salvation and suffer eternal separation from God? Absolutely not. Emphatically no!
Was Paul crazy? He claimed he would sacrifice his eternal future with Christ “for the sake of his brothers”. The Living Bible paraphrases the apostle: “I would be willing to be forever damned if that would save you” (Romans 9.3). Even if Paul was under emotional stress (“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart”) or tended to exaggerate, nevertheless it appears he believed what he said to be true:
“I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying,
my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit”
Romans 9:1 NIV
Paul’s statement is audacious, fantastic, almost unbelievable. Was this a ‘messianic ego’ running wild? Did he honestly think the sacrifice of his eternal destiny could secure the salvation of his brothers? Or, was it love? Did Paul literally love his people enough to trade his salvation for theirs, if he could? A similar offer was made by Moses over 1,000 years earlier and recorded in the book of Exodus:
“But now, please forgive their sin – but if not,
then blot me out of the book You have written.”
Exodus 32.32 NIV
Is this what it takes to be a leader? If so, count me out. I would never qualify! But I follow One who does. One who made Himself “cursed and cut off from” God for me and my brothers:
“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying,
‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is, being interpreted,
‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ ”
Mark 15:34 KJV
Mark 15:34 KJV
For my sake and “for the sake of my brothers” Jesus was willing to forsake it all.
The inspiring image of Jesus on the cross by IZZYGALVEZ (2007) is featured on Photobucket (http://media.photobucket.com/image/jesus%20on%20cross/izzygalvez/IZZYGALVEZ-JesusCross-John3-16-Sepi.jpg).