Romans 9:2-3 "that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race."
It is a hard thing. Faith sometimes divides families. The choice often is put, either give up your faith, or you have given up on family. It is a great anguish, for family is important, they cannot be replaced, but then, neither can the saving faith that is in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. What comes first, which should you choose? If you give up faith in favor of family, then you and your whole family will spend eternity in Hell, and they won’t thank you for your sacrifice, they will rather ask you for ever and ever, Why didn’t you continue steadfast in faith, and work to bring us also to repentance and saving faith? If you continue steadfast in faith, your family may disown you, and for a time make your life miserable, but as you continue to follow your savior and pray for your family, it may be that they will repent believe and be saved. In that day, you will all be together in faith, in Christ, and one day together forever in heaven.
Sometimes people make it hard to be loved. Sometimes people can be hurtful and spiteful, and in the case of family, they already know the weakness in our defenses, and can be cruel beyond measure. When people treat you badly what do you do? What should you do?
2 Cor 11:23-25 "far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned."
Paul had great sorrow and anguish because of his kinsmen, the Jews. Imprisoned, beaten, stoned at their hands, his thoughts are not of vengeance, but compassion, and love. Why, well the answer is simple, he could remember that he had persecuted Christ and the Church, and God had compassion on him, as long as he remember all that God had suffered on account of him, and all that God had forgiven him, it was easier to forgive those who persecuted him, and to pray for their conversion.
The world tells us that vengeance is the answer, but vengeance means, never forgetting, and having our lives filled with hatred. For the punishment of those who hurt us, does not remove the memory of the hurt. It is only the forgiveness that comes from God, that can remove the hurtful memory, for by grace through faith, in Jesus Christ, we are not just healed, but we are made a new creation, and the former things are forgotten. In Christ, you can forgive and forget. So for those who follow the way of vengeance, when the day of vengeance comes, the hurt remains, and then there is no object for our vengeance, and our hurt turns to a hate of all things.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can follow the example of Paul, just as Paul followed Christ. For when the law and the gospel bring a person to faith and repentance, not only is there forgiveness of sins, but there is one more member in the body of Christ, one new friend with whom you can share the journey on the path to heaven.
And it should be easier for us to love those who persecute us, for rarely have we been beaten, or imprisoned, or stoned, rarely have we faced death at the hands of our enemies. It should be easy for us to love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us, but it isn’t. Satan is always there to remind us of the hurts we have suffered, encouraging us to get even, to discourage us from forgiving freely, just as God in Christ has forgiven us. It is hard to love, for there are so few examples of love and virtue in this world, but as long as we remember the love with which God has loved us, and the grace he has poured out upon us, and the forgiveness given us in Jesus body and blood given for us for the forgiveness of our sins, it is not so hard. And as we remember those who brought us to faith, and helped us to grow in faith, as we remember those who taught us about Jesus, we begin to see an example of people, nearer than Paul, who have continued in faith, and have been for us an example of what it is to be a Christian.
We all talk about things which are important to us, trucks & tractors, sports & fishing, home & children, food and fashion, in the same way that it is common to talk about these things, so also might we share with others the love of God which is in Jesus Christ, for that too is important, and at the center of life.