From the Well - 8/3/2017

Romans 9:1-5 (The Message) 
1 At the same time, you need to know that I carry with me at all times a huge sorrow. 2 It's an enormous pain deep within me, and I'm never free of it. I'm not exaggerating-Christ and the Holy Spirit are my witnesses. It's the Israelites... 3 If there were any way I could be cursed by the Messiah so they could be blessed by him, I'd do it in a minute. They're my family. 4 I grew up with them. They had everything going for them-family, glory, covenants, revelation, worship, promises, 5 to say nothing of being the race that produced the Messiah, the Christ, who is God over everything, always. Oh, yes!

In Mark Twain's, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck finds himself in a difficult situation. During his adventures on the Mississippi river, Huck hides and protects a runaway slave. Not only is Jim a renegade slave, he is the property of Miss Watson, a woman who befriends Huck. At one point in the story, Huck and Jim's luck runs out and Jim is thrown in prison and held for reward.

When Huck learns of Jim's capture, he feels guilty. He's hiding a runaway slave and deceiving Miss Watson. He is convinced that a place is being prepared for him in hell. He finally resolves to write Miss Watson and tell her where Jim is. When he finishes the letter, he feels free of his guilt. He's done the right thing and in doing so avoids the torments of hell. Then he begins to think about Jim, his friend, the man he is about to send back into slavery:

. . . I see Jim before me all the time . . . But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kinds. I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call be honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling he men we had smallpox and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Him ever had in the world, and the only one he's got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.[1]

At this point, Huck feels trapped. Should he return Jim the runaway slave, his friend? As he thinks about it, he says, "All right, then, I'll go to hell." He tears up the letter to Miss Watson. 

Tom Boyd, former professor of Religion and Ethics at the University of Oklahoma says, "Huck is in high company. St. Paul, writing to the Romans, has a similar struggle over the redemption of his own people."[2] Paul in pain and anguish says,

It's an enormous pain deep within me, and I'm never free of it. I'm not exaggerating-Christ and the Holy Spirit are my witness. It's the Israelites . . . If there were any way I could be cursed by the Messiah so they could be blessed by him, I'd do it in a minute. They're my family."[3]

Paul, like Huck, is willing to go to hell for all the right reasons. Paul is not angry, he's upset and sad. Out of his heartbreak he wants to do anything he can to bring all of God's people to the love of Christ. What are we willing to do to bring others into the loving Body of Christ? Think about it!

Matthew

[1]Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (A Glassbook Classic), 216-217.

[2]Tom W. Boyd, "Going to Hell for the Right Reason," Pulpit Digest, March-April 1991, 32.

[3]Romans 9:2-3, Eugene Peterson's, The Message.