Me: Paul, is something bothering you?
Paul: “I have great sadness and constant pain in my heart.” (Romans 9:2 CEB)
Me: What on earth’s wrong, brother?
Paul: “I wish I could be cursed, cut off from Christ …” (Romans 9:3a CEB)
Me: What?! How could you even think such a thing?
Paul: “… if it helped my brothers and sisters.” (Romans 9:3b CEB)
Me: You’re saying you’d go to hell in their place? Who are these people?
Paul: “… my flesh-and-blood relatives.” (Romans 9:3b CEB)
Me: You’ve got to be pulling my leg. You can’t possibly feel this way about these people!
Paul: “I’m speaking the truth in Christ—I’m not lying, as my conscience assures me with the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 9:1 CEB)
Me: Have you lost your mind? Plenty of these people have been trying to kill you!
Paul: “… my heart’s desire is for Israel’s salvation. That’s my prayer to God for them. I can vouch for them: they are enthusiastic about God. However, it isn’t informed by knowledge. They don’t submit to God’s righteousness because they don’t understand his righteousness, and they try to establish their own righteousness.” (Romans 10:1-3 CEB)
Me: You mean to say that you believe some of these people are reachable?
Paul: “… all who have faith …” (Romans 10:4 CEB)
Me: Give it up, man; they’re hopeless! Save your heart and energy for the Gentiles.
Paul: “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord is Lord of all, who gives richly to all who call on him. All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved.” (Romans 10:12-13 CEB)
Me: At least let someone else try to tell them about the Lord.
Paul: “So I ask you, has God rejected his people? Absolutely not! … I publicize my own ministry in the hope that somehow I might make my own people jealous and save some of them.” (Romans 11:1,13b-14 CEB)
Me: Well, I guest you’re not crazy, but you’re surely crazy in love with the Lord and you obviously love people, all people, more than you do yourself. Still, what good do you think God can do with you in light of all the opposition you’ve received?
Paul: “God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge are so deep! They are as mysterious as his judgments, and they are as hard to track as his paths!” (Romans 11:33 CEB)
Me: You are surely the most amazing man I’ve ever met, Paul. You’re something special!
Paul: “All things are from him and through him and for him. May the glory be to him forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36 CEB)
You and me: God our Father, in the name of Jesus, grow our love for all to become like this brother of ours, Paul. Remind us daily of the great value you place on every person, everywhere. As your Son died in our place on the cross, may our love for people grow so that we would be willing to do the same, if possible. Amen.