Of course I would hang on his every word. The speaker at the event was a Messianic Jew (or, a Jewish Christian, if you will), and since I am, too, he was coming from a perspective that I would understand. Or so I thought.
But his teaching from Romans 9:1-5 left me bothered and challenged. The speaker mimicked the apostle Paul’s desires, in being willing to trade his salvation for the sake of Jews who were not saved.
“… I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren,…”
I thought about it, and realized that I didn’t feel this way. For all my Jewish family and friends — besides millions of Jews whom I had no connection to — I had no desire to go to hell in their place. It would have been nice to say I would, but I know my feelings were not there.
I confessed this to a mentor and friend who was at the event. I told him that I know I should be willing to sacrifice, but I didn’t feel that way. His response was simple: “Pray that God would give you those feelings.”
So I began to do so.
A few months later, I realized that those feelings did come. I did have a desire to be condemned to hell if it meant that other Jews would be saved. If only it were possible!
Sad For — Not With — Ferguson
Unless you’ve been in a media-free cave, you know that earlier this month, an 18-year old black teenager was shot and killed by a white police officer, in Ferguson, Missouri. For the past few weeks, that town has been in unrest, to say the least.
I would guess that almost everyone came to an initial reaction and judgment. Justin Taylor gives four possible positions, and most people automatically jumped to either defend the teenager or the officer. Even people who claim to say, “We have to wait for the evidence,” probably want to defend the police officer, and they are hoping that the evidence comes out that way.
I’m not writing this to defend or decry anyone’s position. And I’m not writing this to cry out for justice for Michael Brown, or to claim that Officer Darren Wilson is innocent until proven guilty.
I am writing this as a confession. I admit that I do not feel sadness with the community of Ferguson.
How Do I Gain Empathy?
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15
Yes, I feel sad about the death of a teenage boy – whether or not he was an aggressor. And I feel sad about the loneliness and isolation that Officer Wilson is experiencing – whether or not he was an aggressor. And I feel sad for the looting and chaos in this town.
But the sadness I feel is surface-level, not a deep connection and burden. And I think that reveals the selfishness of my own heart.
Again, I do not on my empathize with the people of Ferguson, who are 600 miles from me in Greenville, SC. And I barely sympathize. And according to Romans 12:15, my lack of deep feelings is wrong. It is a violation of God’s law of love.
So what will I do? I will pray. Not only can I pray for the situation in Missouri. I will pray for myself. I will pray that my heart will mourn with that community. I will pray that I will be broken for the things that break God’s heart.
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.“ vv. 9-13
**image courtesy of emarvelous via Instagram