(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
For the sake of my countrymen
8th March 2014
Paul was a Jewish Christian. I suppose now we would describe him as a Messianic Jew. At one time, heíd so hated Jesus Christ and the Christians that he ďbegan to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged them off to imprisonmentĒ (Acts 8v3) but he was saved through faith in the redeeming blood of Jesus and became one of Christianityís greatest leaders.
Having experienced the forgiveness and love of God in Jesus Christ, and having been born again as a child of God, he found a deep ache in his heart for those of his own nationality who had not received Jesus and so were still lost in their sins. He said he had great sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart for their sake. Most of the nation that God had called His own in the Old Testament had rejected Jesus the Messiah and so were ďbroken off" (Romans 11v17) from Godís people. Paul understood how great a tragedy this was. He wrote:
You can feel his anguish in these words. What great privileges the Jews had, and what a great fall it was for most of them to miss the kingdom of God because they refused to accept Jesus as Messiah!
Of course, some Jews didnít miss out. God kept a remnant of Israel for Himself: As Paul said in Romans 9:27 says, ďIsaiah cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.Ē And thatís what happened in Paulís generation. Paul was part of that remnant, and he was broken-hearted for the majority of his fellow-countrymen who were not.
And this makes me think.
In my own country, England, there has also been a great fall. There was a time when England was granted great privileges from God. If the history books are to be believed, there were times, such as during the Reformation and at the time of Wesley and Whitefield, when the English church grew to the point when most Englishmen worshipped the true God. The English sent missionaries all over the world.
No longer. Now, countries that are more Christian than England send missionaries here. We are the new heathens. The English believe in all sorts of strange gods, and in none. Atheism is becoming fashionable. Recently, there have been devastating floods in parts of England, and so far as I know, not even the church leaders have called for a national day of prayer.
I believe that when a country falls away from God, the people most to blame are not the politicians, or the news media, or the entertainment industry, or the business leaders, or followers of false religions. The people most to blame are the Christians. Itís the Christians who have the spiritual power. Itís the Christians who have access to Godís wisdom through the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit. Itís the Christians who have access to God in prayer. But we havenít taken our responsibility seriously. Remember:
2 Chronicles 7:14
Thatís as true now as it was then. The land ultimately belongs to the Christians Ė Jesus promised that the meek will inherit the earth Ė and we should take responsibility for it.
Paul was heartbroken for his countrymen. Are we heartbroken for ours? Are we in great sorrow for our countrymen who havenít received Jesus the Messiah as Saviour and Lord? Are we in unceasing anguish because their sins are not forgiven and they're heading for an eternity without God?
I canít honestly say, ďI could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own raceĒ but Paul could. Perhaps England will only come back to God when we Christians love the English as much as Paul loved the Jews. Perhaps only that kind of love will motivate us to sacrifice our time, money and comfort, and pray for our countrymen, and stand up for the Truth, and risk unpopularity to tell them about Jesus.