I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit-that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the fleshRomans 9:1-3
To be cut off from Christ is to be cut off from heaven. Does Paul’s bold assertion startle you? It startles me. Not only does the apostle Paul testify his love for his own kindred enough so that he would give his very soul for the salvation of his people but he certifies his statement by invoking a clear conscience in the name of the Holy Spirit.
What love is this? To be cut off from Christ is to be damned. Not just death but the second death, an eternity, forever, suffering the torments of absolute evil, separated from the source of all goodness Himself. Paul, knows this better than most. In truth much of our doctrine comes from his very words. And yet Paul’s love is such that he would trade heaven for hell.
Where does such radical love come from?
Think of Paul’s own words to the Church in Phillipi.
…who [That is Christ], though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross…
Christ’s love for us and His unfathomable obedience to the Father was enough for Christ to pour himself out as a true sacrifice on the cross. Christ truly traded heaven for hell. In a way that we cannot understand. To be the source of all being and then to be separated from the source of all being is beyond comprehension of us mere mortals. Therefore, Christ’s love is the example of such radical love and Christ is the captain of Paul’s audacious heart.
Where does this lead us? I know that I personally had never considered trading my salvation for anyone’s salvation the thought never crossed my mind until I became a father. But I pray that I would have such love of my neighbor and of my people that I would be deeply grieved at the prospect of their damnation.
I pray that the Lord would give his Church a clear and present understanding of what is truly at stake. As I wrote in my previous blog post, they are going to hell, and when I say they I mean anyone who is not in Christ. Every sinner that does not know Christ is facing an unfathomable fate and my heart should be broken for them.
What are these things that so often get in the way of such love? Is it busyness? Laziness? Pride or embarrassment? Is awkwardness, or the fear of rebuke that stand in the way of loving my neighbor in a way that at the very least I am leaping over privacy fences to share the one hope for their souls?
May the Lord grant it that I would never let such a little thing such as awkwardness, embarrassment or pride get in the way of loving my neighbor and sharing the hope that is in me through Christ.
May ultimately I know the love of Christ so much that it bursts from my very being. That I would be so compelled to sing His praises.