“1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”
My family and I took a much-needed break last week. We visited the city of Kingston since we could not go to church camp in the US. We were not able to cross the border and see our brothers and sisters in the US. There is a lot of turmoil in the world today and a lot of lies. A lot of Christians and pseudo-Christians have gotten caught up in the Social Justice movement, and a lot of pastors have succumbed to the pressure to be relevant and not truthful. The Bible is misused as a springboard into the sermons that justify what they feel as opposed to what the Bible teaches. One of the things that gets missing in the whole political arena is that of the Gospel of Jesus.
Recently, there was a writer who made the claim that Jesus was pushed on the Africans by the White man. But the truth is that the Gospel of Jesus was brought by Black men to their people from the Jews (recall Acts 8). Simon the Cyrene was a black man who carried the Gospel to Africa. We can go on and on; Jesus is for everyone. It is certain that Jesus was not the white, tall, blond-haired and blue-eyed man that is often portrayed. He was and is a Jew. He would not have had a goatee; he would have had a full beard much like one sees on some Jewish groups, Muslim men, or the Amish men. He would have been the average height as He often got lost in the crowded areas of Jerusalem, and it took a kiss from Judas to identify him to the mob who arrested him. Jesus looked like a normal Jewish man.
In Isaiah 53:2, we are told that the Messiah Jesus would have not form of beauty that we would be drawn to Him. Jesus was not a good-looking man as far as good-looking men of that day. Often, he is shown in movies as what we call today handsome, but whatever he looked like in that day, he was not physically appealing.
In the passage above, I want to simply observe something that convicts me and maybe should convict you as well. Paul loved his fellow Israelites so much that he was willing to give up heaven so that they could get there. Did you see that? Verse 3 – I wish that I were accursed from Christ for my brethren. Is there anyone that you would choose to go to hell for? Is there someone that you love so much that if it were possible, then you would vacate your spot in Heaven for them?
We need to understand that in the vast majority of cases where Paul was persecuted, it was at the hands of the Jews. His own countrymen were his worst enemies, yet he had such great love and compassion for them that if it were possible that he, Paul, could switch places with them, he would take their place in Hell. Do you and I love even our loved ones this much, furthermore our enemies? I dare say I don’t, and if you were to be honest, neither do you.
About 4 years ago or so, maybe a bit less, I was led by the Lord to preach through the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 at the church I pastor. It challenged me and hit me in the heart. It took a while, but I began to realize that this was how God loved me. He loved me like 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, and he expected me to love others the same way. It began to hit me; my son and I had been at loggerheads for a long time, and I was not being very loving. Now, loving does not mean condoning or being a party to evil. But it does mean forgiving; it means holding one’s tongue; it means giving chances and more chances like God gives us. It means not holding a grudge, and it means always looking for the best for the people that hurt you. Man, it hit me that I was not loving this way, and I began to ask the Lord to change me. He has and He is; trust me, it was a God-sized job to move me, but He was up to the task.
In the Bible we see men being great examples of this kind of love. Stephen in Acts 7 asked God to forgive the men who killed him. Paul preached Jesus to the man who ordered him to be brutally beaten in Acts 16. And, of course, Jesus asked God the Father to forgive the men that killed Him. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph comforted his brothers who feared his wrath once their father had died. Joseph promises them that he had no evil towards them, that what they had done for evil, God has used for good. Joseph was a man at peace.
In John 13:34-35, we are called to love each other as brothers and sisters in the Lord; and in this kind of love, we will be able to exhibit our Christianity. But in Matthew 5: 10-12, we are called to love our enemies. If one is truly following the current events, you will see that there is a deliberate effort against conservative Christianity. In some states is illegal for churches to meet, yet one can protest side by side. In many states, it is illegal to attend church, but the liquor stores and abortion clinics remain open. In many places, it has become so that people cannot attend weddings or funerals for a loved one, yet we can attend all kinds of rallies and protests for evil.
The Bible is hated, truth is hated, and even Black conservative men and women are seen as traitors because they tell the truth. Truth is the enemy of the current situation. We have seen many instances where social media have edited or flat-out banned a person’s post because it is the truth, but it did not fit the present narrative. Truth is the enemy of all lies, and the more accepted a lie becomes, the more hated the truth-tellers will be. That is us – you and I who hold that the Bible is the absolute truth. It says exactly what God wanted it to say and means exactly what God wanted it to mean.
Paul was a truth-teller. Paul taught that Jesus was the only way to be saved; Paul taught that women should not be permitted to teach men; Paul taught that a pastor called an elder should not drink alcohol, and on and on we can go. He taught that homosexuality was wrong, but so was gossip, backbiting, and bigotry. He taught that a repentant brother or sister should be accepted back with loving arms. Yet he was hated for teaching the truth; and if you teach the truth, so you will be hated as well. Look at the modern preachers that are accepted by the masses, and you will find the ones who are loose with the truth of the Bible. On the other hand, the ones who deal fair and straight with the truth are hated.
Yet Paul loved his fellow Jews and wished that, if possible, he would give up heaven for them. Do we love each other this way, furthermore our enemies? I tell you; we will soon begin to get the chance. Our enemies will surround us, and we will be called to make radical choices for the name of Jesus. I pray that the Holy Spirit in me will help me to stand when my flesh is weak. I pray that the Holy Spirit in me will help me to love the very men who may kill me, my wife, or my kids and to ask God not to hold it against them.
Do you love as Paul did? Do you love as Jesus did? Oh, that we would, this world would be a better place, and we would have a greater understanding of the cross. There, Jesus died for us, we who were his enemies at the time. Yet He loved us and gave His life for us.
What a loving, gracious and kind God we serve. Oh, that I/we were more like Him.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church