The Most Disturbing Verse in Scripture
I'm sure most of you have been there at least once. You're up early reading your Bible and hoping God has something to reveal to you about himself, and you run across that verse. You know the one: Man, how did that get there? Surely God doesn't mean that? Yep, I've had those moments and I've wrestled and thought and prayed and fought in an attempt to better understand a God who does not do the understandable.
But this week's not-so-fun verse reared its head in Sunday School. This preacher's wife was doing what she's supposed to do, filling the seat she's supposed to fill, adding witty and poignant remarks to the biblical conversation (ha) and Romans chapter 9 verse 3 shows up:
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,my kinsmen according to the flesh.
Um, excuse me? You have GOT to be kidding. Now I am well aware of John 15's verse, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." And I even kind of get that. That sacrifice might even be relatively easy considering that there is Heaven to gain the moment this life is complete. I could come up with a list of people, of friends, for whom this sacrifice would be no question - My Beloved, my babies, family - the list can go on. But do not miss the fact that Paul is not repeating John 15:13. Oh no, he is going further. Frankly, he is going way further than I am comfortable even desiring to understand.
Suddenly I'm sitting in Sunday School losing my composure. Tears are falling and I'm trying desperately to hold myself together. I'm overwhelmed alright, but I'm overwhelmed withanger. I mean, WHO DOES THIS? What kind of bizarre-o freak is writing these words? What born again child of the Most High loves anyone with this kind of love? Sure, I know some good people, but this is not even in the ballpark of good. Yeah, Jesus can do this. In fact he did do this. He gave himself for vile, wicked people who did not even want him. But, He is GOD. I know NO ONE who loves like this. Does this disturbing verse mean that He desires I become so much like him I am willing to agonize for all of Tallapoosa (or America or the World) to the point I'm willing to sacrifice my very salvation? Paul is wishing himself an anathema - willing to lose his salvation and spend eternity subjected to God's wrath - so the entirety of the Jewish nation would come to know Christ. And oh yeah, check out verses one and two, he really means this.
Here I am 36 hours later and my heart is still restless and aching. If this is the kind of love that is required of those who follow Jesus then I am just not sure I am up to the challenge. You see, I like my life the way it is. I don't even mind not liking the people who don't like me. But, God has called me to a love that hurts. I don't want to hurt. I want to live a happy, pain-free existence. But God has called me to death. Period. And killing self on a daily and even moment by moment basis is not what I thought I signed up for. I would much rather quote Sunday School clichés like, "God First. Others Second. Self Last." live my best life now and be done with the whole thing. But that won't help me really BE like Christ. I said a few weeks ago that "Blessed are the meek" doesn't come without scars, but really Blessedness itself is what brings the wounds and the pain and the tears.
All in all I trust the One True God to reveal himself to me and show me where to find peace amid this aching. I serve a God who is big enough to take my fear of pain and grow that puny seed into more faith. I am trusting Him to continue to show me what it means to follow him - especially the parts I don't like. Because the truth is, the parts that are appealing are more like me and less like Him and probably need to be changed anyway. Oh I am disturbed - desperately - and I don't know how this tale ends. But if God is worth serving then He is worth serving on His terms alone. And am I willing to risk this life I have always wanted for the life He desires to give?