“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” (Romans 9:1-3)
Paul had zealous Jews who lay in wait to kill him. At least five times he received the whipping that his kinsmen reserved for rebels. He had a group who bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until he was dead. He was deemed a pestilent fellow who sowed discord among his brethren and did not deserve to live. And what did he do in response? He prayed for his kinsmen according to the flesh as Stephen once prayed for him. He saw them as ignorant even as he once was. Did he rage with anger and a desire for retaliation? No. They wished that he was accursed, and he was willing to be accursed for their sake. They wanted him cut off from God; he wanted them connected to God. They wanted to see him dead; he wanted to see them live. He bore them no malice, no hatred, no ill-will; he only carried great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart for them.
Oh what an example of Christ! Surely these are the “signs of an apostle” who shares in the high and heavenly calling of the one who sent him. We would know Christ in the “power of His resurrection,” but are we also willing to know Him in the “fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death”? There is glory in the face which was marred more than any man. Share His visage.
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” (Romans 10:1)