Sunday – April 10, 2022
Word On Worship – Sunday – April 10, 2022
“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.”
Imagine, if possible, Adolf Hitler writing a history of the Jews. It could hardly be taken seriously by anyone wanting to read an objective, historical account of this race. How could a Jew-hater and a Jew-killer be trusted to deal truthfully with the historical material? After his conversion, Paul was viewed as a traitor at best by his fellow Israelites who had been his colleagues in earlier years. Reaction to Paul was immediate and intense, as seen in Luke’s account of what took place in Damascus after Paul’s conversion in Acts 9.
It did not get better as time passed; it only got worse. The more Paul grew, the more boldly and broadly he proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. And the more the gospel Paul preached was received by Jews or Gentiles, the more their opposition and animosity grew. Paul refused to separate himself from Judaism but rather proclaimed the gospel as the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. It would all explode when Paul made his way to Jerusalem, not long after he penned this letter to the Romans.
With all honesty, Paul can say his response to Israel’s unbelief and very real peril is that of sorrow and grief. These are the responses of love, not of bitterness or vengeance. In spite of all the Jews have done against Paul, he still loves them and finds no joy in their downfall. It is not enough for Paul to feel sorry for his people. If it were possible, he would wish to be like Christ, sacrificing himself for the salvation of his fellow-Jews and bear the wrath of God in their place. While this would not be nor could be, Paul nevertheless unveils his heart toward the Jews. If he must speak ill of this people, he will find only grief and no pleasure in doing so.
Are you burdened for the salvation of lost souls? More importantly, is your burden for the lost like Jonah or Paul? Are you more interested in seeing the comeuppance of those who have become your enemies because of their lifestyle, culture or politics? Paul is unlike Jonah who desired to see his enemies sizzle in the flames of divine judgment (Jonah 4). He is like Abraham who had compassion on the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah and pled with God to spare the city for the sake of a few righteous (Genesis 19:16-33). Ask God to give you a burden for the lost as Paul had, with humility and compassion. Pray that the love of Christ will control you to such an extent that you show His love even to those who mistreat you, who deserve His judgment and by such grace, prove the words of Christ to be true- “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)