I have been thinking about Paul’s statement in Romans 9.1-3. He writes, I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh (the children of Israel). I only have a few thoughts to meditate upon. I do not plan on dissecting the entirety of Romans 9, yet.
What is Paul actually suggesting when he wishes to be accursed? The transliteration of the original Greek word is anathema. In the KJV it is translated as accursed. The contributors of The International Standard Biblical Encyclopedia elaborate,
“Whereas in the Greek Fathers anathema-as cherem in rabbinic Hebrew-came to denote excommunication from society, in the New Testament the word has its full force. In common speech it evidently became a strong expression of execration, and the term connoted more than physical destruction; it invariably implied moral worthlessness. In Ro 9:3 Paul does not simply mean that, for the sake of his fellow-countrymen, he is prepared to face death, but to endure the moral degradation of an outcast from the kingdom of Christ.”
The only person to fully experience such tragedy is our Lord. The Scriptures teach us that He became sin for us. (2 Corinthians 5.21) Jesus experienced moral degradation which included punishment for the sin of humanity and separation from the Father. (Matthew 27.46, Mark 15.34) Paul was completely aware of what Jesus experienced, (knowledge, not experience) yet he still desired to be accursed. And, in many ways Paul did experience great suffering as he faithfully preached the Gospel; I do not want to minimize his suffering, because it was substantial. When Paul wished to be accursed, he was wishing to be eternally separated from God. Out of love, he wanted others to know Christ. He did not love the fact that he was right, he loved people.
We are more inclined to wish people to eternal hell. You might say, whoa, I would never wish for people to go to hell; I would never say such a thing. While we may not wish, or say such a terrible thing, what are we doing to prevent others from going there? Are you sharing the Gospel with others? When was the last time you told someone of Christ’s love and great sacrifice? I recognize the importance of not offending others. And, the subject of hell can frighten people away, and perhaps lead them to think that we are intolerant and judgmental. We don’t need to frighten people. But we do need to share the love of Christ, the love that was so clearly demonstrated on the cross. And we need to share the power that overcomes sin and death; the same power that raised Him from the dead. When we share these truths out of love we will not forcibly compel people to make a decision. The Holy Spirit is the one Who compels.
Sometimes as Christians we can feel as if we are a part of something bigger than ourselves, and we are. But if we are not careful we can begin to enjoy telling people about their sin and relish in the fact that we are already right with God. I remember when I was a younger Christian, I felt good about the fact that I was warning people about hell and judgment. I would walk away feeling like my conscience was clear. I had done my job, their blood was not on my hands (a common expression). They made their choice, if they want to reject the truth I cannot stop them. I am not even certain if the gospel that I shared was good news, at least not the way I presented it. But I walked away without knowing their vocation, whether or not they had children, and without learning about the things that they delighted in. I loved the fact that I knew and shared the truth, but I did not love them.