When we think of Jesus’ words about gaining the whole world at the expense of losing our souls (Matt. 16:26), we rightly turn our attention toward ourselves and the value of our own soul individually. One important truth which comes from looking more deeply into this passage should lead us to see the value of the lost souls of those around us. Everyone you know is a soul. What are you willing to do to save just one of them?
There are many examples of individuals in the Bible to help us in trying to answer this question. However, none of them surpass Paul as an example to each of us about the giving of ourselves to reach out to others.
Is there one single thing which you desire above all others? What is your heart’s deepest longing? What was Paul’s deepest longing? Imagine that it were possible for you to listen to Paul as he prayed about his deepest longing. Hear his words, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for all Israel is that they might be saved” (Rom. 10:1). Paul was an Israelite, and he longed for their salvation. He prayed for their salvation. His greatest desire for them was for their salvation. Let me ask you again. What is your heart’s deepest longing?
Hear Paul’s amazing words expressing just how much he would give up if Israel could be turned to obey the Lord. He uses a Greek word we sometimes hear but may not understand. This word is anathema. To define this word, look at how Paul uses it to describe the certain judgment on those who pervert the gospel. Depending on the translation you are using, he said, “Let him be accursed” or “Let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8). This Greek word signifies God’s certain judgment against that person. It means to be excommunicated from God, to be irrevocably cut off from God.
Notice how Paul used this word in describing what he would give up if Israel could be saved. “For I could wish that I myself were accursed (the Greek word is anathema) for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3). The force of his words indicate that he would be willing to go to hell (to be irrevocably cut off from God) if doing this would bring about the salvation of the Jews.
Now make the application to your life as you think of the value of the lost souls around you. How much would you be willing to do to bring about their salvation? What is your heart’s desire and prayer to God for them? Would you be willing to be cut off from God if that would lead to their salvation? Our love for them may not be as deep as Paul’s love for Israel, but it must be far deeper than it probably is right now. What are you doing to reach out to them? How deep is your love?