An Extraordinary Sacrifice
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.
Years ago, when I first read today’s passage I was confused. I thought: “Wait a minute Paul, didn’t you just get finished teaching us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus? Wouldn’t that include giving up your salvation for someone else?” We know we can never give up or lose our salvation because the good work God has begun in us, He will finish. (Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”) So what is Paul’s point? I believe his sorrow and anguish were so great for his people that he would do anything to have them know Jesus.
Think about that for a minute — these were the same people who stoned and beat him on multiple occasions, plotted his murder, and went ahead to the cities he would be visiting to stir up unrest and rioting against him. They sounded more like enemies than someone for whom you would sacrifice your own salvation.
When I prepared today’s devotion, the Lord brought forward some unpleasant episodes from the depths of my memory banks. The Lord knows that I, like Paul, may offer up a great sacrifice in exchange for the life of one of my family members whom I love deeply (my people). But would I do so for an unfriendly neighbor, someone who holds an opposing political or moral point of view, or one of our nation’s “professed enemies”? Probably not. I think that is the point of Paul’s message today: If we truly understand the depth and breadth of God’s love for us, as expressed through the death of His Son Jesus, then we are willing to make extraordinary sacrifices for people. Even those we don’t know, don’t like, or who don’t like us.
Who is difficult for you to love? Luke 6:32, 35-36: [Jesus speaking] “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them…But love your enemies, do good to them…Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” This is probably one of the most difficult Scriptures for us to follow because it is counter-intuitive (it goes against our nature). But doesn’t most of what God calls us to do go against our sinful nature? Who do you need to love today? How will you do so?