The Passion for the Lost
Read Romans 9:1-5
"For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh."
In an age of mass media and information overload, it is easy to be indifferent to the plight of others. In the news, we are daily bombarded with countless images of people going through intense trials and sufferings. With the constant overload of tragedy, it is easy to become indifferent. It becomes depersonalized where we merely see images on a screen rather than real people facing real troubles in their life.
Not only can we become indifferent to the physical needs of people, but we can also become indifferent to the spiritual needs of people. As the church, we are repeatedly told that we are to be engaged in and passionate about reaching the lost. However, in the daily doldrums of life, we can quickly lose sight of this task. In society today, sin becomes minimized. Immorality is a choice, and sin becomes a psychological disorder rather than a spiritual condition. When sin thus becomes minimizes, so does the need for grace. In the end, we no longer have an urgency for evangelism.
This was not the case was Paul. In the first half of the book of Romans, Paul had meticulously pointed to the spiritual plight of people. We all are sinners by birth and by choice and have rebelled against God (Romans 3:10,23). As a result, we are deserving of spiritual judgment and condemnation (Romans. 6:23). But all is not without hope, for Christ brought salvation and the forgiveness of sin through his redemptive work on the cross (5:8). This brings hope to all individuals who accept Christ, hope beyond the present, and provides the hope of eternity (Romans 8:38-39). This awareness of humanity's condition, the separation and alienation that sin brings become humanity and God, and the hope of salvation through Christ motivated Paul's passion for the lost.
This awareness of people's spiritual condition and the hope of salvation provides the foundation for Paul's incredible statement in 9:2. At first glance, his statement seems remarkable. So passionate and concerned was Paul for his fellow Jews that expressing that he would be willing to sacrifice his own eternal destiny if it meant the salvation for the Jews. In other words, he would be till give up his place in heaven and be cast into the fires of hell if it would guarantee the Israelites' salvation. But this is not just some conjured-up hyperbole. It is the expression of Christ's own heart. For Paul, being like Christ meant that he possessed the heart of Christ and that included the passion and deep sorrow for the lost. So great was Christ's compassion for the lost that he did what Paul only was able to express. Christ did, in fact, sacrifice the joys of heaven to suffer the judgment of our sin to make our salvation possible.
To have the mind of Christ is to be so passionate about the lost that we are willing to suffer all things and even give up our life for their salvation. This passion only comes when we see the devastating effects of sin and the supremacy of God's grace. This begins with our perspective of our need for Christ and the grace Christ bestowed upon us. Our passion for the salvation of people provides a barometer of our understanding of our lost condition and the word of God's mercy that was revealed on the cross. Do we have a desire for seeing people come to Christ? To pray for the lost begins by praying for a hunger to see people come to Christ.