“That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:” (Romans 9:2–3, KJV 1900)
The expression having a heavy heart refers to having much sadness and grief. Often, we have heavy hearts. The extreme of this is when we experience the loss of a loved one. I have had to do many funerals as a pastor. As I conducted these services, I saw first hand the grief that people had. Often it would bring sorrow to my heart, just seeing the pain in the hearts of the survivors. Perhaps the greatest expressions of grief I have ever seen was that of parents that had lost a child.
Paul in these verses tell us that he has a genuine and deep sorrow, grief for his fellow Jews. Paul was a Jew, an up and coming leader in the Jewish religious community. He was zealous for the Law and even became a zealous persecutor of the church. On the road to Damascus, while heading there to persecute fleeing Christians, Paul had an experience with the resurrected Jesus. This experience transformed his entire life. He now understood that the only way to life was to have faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, he realized that those without Christ, were already dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).
His passion for the nation of Israel to come to the same understanding that he had was so great, that he even wished that he “were accursed from Christ.” His burden was that they might be saved. Yet, I believe his passion extended beyond this to include the gentile world as well. It is this passion that drove him to expend energy and sacrifice for the sake of getting the message of hope to everyone possible.
I wonder if we have such a burden. Do we grieve for the lost around us? How about our parents, children, and grandchildren? What about our friends and their families, our next-door neighbors? Is the burden so heavy that we grieve constantly over their lostness? When I see Paul’s expression of continued sorrow and heaviness of heart, I wonder if we, including myself, have that same burden for the lost?
What would our lives look like if we had Paul’s heavy heart for those who were perishing? I believe we would be praying with great intensity for others. I believe that we would be sacrificing of our time, energy, comfort and material possessions to reach others with the message. I believe that we would be emulating a person like Paul all the more.