“I’m speaking the truth in Christ—I’m not lying, as my conscience assures me with the Holy Spirit: I have great sadness and constant pain in my heart. I wish I could be cursed, cut off from Christ if it helped my brothers and sisters, who are my flesh-and-blood relatives. They are Israelites. The adoption as God’s children, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship, and the promises belong to them. The Jewish ancestors are theirs, and the Messiah descended from those ancestors. He is the one who rules over all things, who is God, and who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:1-5 CEB)
If you believe Christians today would do well to be like Paul back then, then you believe Christians today need “great sadness and constant pain” (vs.2) over those who are yet to believe. Sadness and pain, not anger and resentment. Not indifference and apathy. Sadness and pain! Feel the weight of these words; consider how they’re used elsewhere in Scripture.
Great sadness. It’s the word Matthew used to paint the picture of Jesus’ spirit when he entered Gethsemane’s Garden the night just hours before he would take upon himself the sins of the whole world. (Matthew 26:38) Luke, the physician, used it to describe the disciples when Jesus found them sleeping in the Garden, “overcome by grief.” (Luke 22:45)
Constant pain. Luke used the word to portray Mary’s heart when her young son had been missing three days and could not be found. (Luke 2:48) It’s the word that depicted how the Christians in gathered at Miletus responded to Paul’s telling them that they would never see him again. (Acts 20:38) Paul used the word to relate the experience of Christians who, reminiscent of Judas, had traded their faith for money and who now lived an agonized existence. (1 Timothy 6:10)
“Great sadness and constant pain.” Weighty words! And where is this weight among God’s people today for those who do not yet know Jesus Christ?
Father God, give me the grace of this burden in spirit and never let it release its grasp on me. Grow within me a heart that truly yearns and agonizes over the rescue of others so that I spend my life being an instrument of your deliverance to them. As their sins break your heart, may they break mine as well. May this burden not crush me, but may it impel me, inspire me and drive me. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.