HOW DEEPLY DO I LOVE UNBELIEVERS?
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. Romans 10:1
How do I feel about unsaved people in general? While my heart may break for a close family member who has yet to embrace Christ, my heart is not that engaged when it’s my city. Too often, I am someone who shakes her head and says, “They’re hard-hearted. There will be eternal consequences if they don’t repent.” I may pray for them but nowhere with the urgency that Paul describes. Would I exchange my own salvation for theirs if God would allow me?
The unceasing anguish Paul feels is not a momentary kind of sadness. Anguish, which like Paul I have felt over some relationships in my lifetime, never really leaves. It’s the thing that tears at your heart and makes your whole body ill. You can’t sleep, can barely eat, and though you carry on with life, you are going through the motions while feeling sick to your stomach. Anyone who really knows you and loves you can see that something is very wrong.
Paul invested his heart in the lives of the Jewish people. He felt sick over their collective lostness. He wasn’t in anguish over one particular rabbi or priest in the temple with whom he’d bonded. He had God’s heart for humanity. Isn’t this just like Jesus standing on the border of Jerusalem, seeing the city through God’s eyes, and weeping over their spiritual condition? Yes, this must be holy anguish.
Two things before I close. 1.) Paul takes a lot of hits for being a confrontational type-A personality. This inference intimates that he lacks sensitivity and heartfelt emotion. I used to say that about him too. I have repented of it. The reference to “unceasing anguish” and the openings and closings to his letters to the church are usually dripping with emotion. 2.) I often stand in the back of a church full of women before speaking and feel their spiritual condition. I am often in tears. But before I become self-impressed, this is far removed from the anguish Paul describes over Israel.
God sure has a lot of work to do in me. I’m humbled. Embarrassed, as well. As I begin Romans again, the sword of Paul’s writing already strikes my flesh. The Word has come, pierced my heart, and I am again on my knees.
I am ready for the rest of Your message through Paul, in Romans. Don’t hold back, Lord. All for Your glory. Amen