Monday, January 17, 2011

Anathema in Romans

A couple months ago I was musing on the word "anathema" in the Septuagint here and here.

In the second post in particular, I was considering the possible connections between the story of Achan/Jericho and Paul's situation dealing with the Judiazers in Galatians.

As I've been working on Romans 8-9 a bit recently, it occurs to me that the context is very similar to Galatians 1 where Paul uses the word "anathema" to describe preachers of the false Judaizing gospel. Only the direction of the anathema is reversed. Instead of pointing the curse at the Judaizing false preachers as in Galatians, Paul turns the gun on himself and says that he would be willing to be anathema for the sake of his brothers according to the flesh (Rom. 9:3).

Only given the immediate context, it seems better to take Paul as not offering to be damned for the sake of the Jews, rather this desire to be anathema from Christ for the Jews is an illustration of the love of God revealed in Christ in 8:31-39. The certainty of Paul's persuasion that nothing can separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus is that Paul would be glad to be killed/die/be utterly destroyed so that they might live. The point is that this is exactly what Jesus did for us: God gave up His own Son to the pain and agony of the cross, but because of the resurrection, this makes our suffering and hardship an opportunity to imitate the love of God in Christ. We may be accounted as "sheep for the slaughter," but in the Lamb of God who was slain, we are "more than conquerors," completely victorious through Him who loved us.

Paul's desire to be "cursed" is a desire to die for them, love them, sacrifice and be sacrificed for them not in a fatalistic, Hellenistic, mock-heroism but rather in the certain hope of the resurrection and the invincible love of God in Jesus.

If God's love is invincible, then we can lay our lives down for one another, for the lost, for our enemies. If we cannot be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus, then we too can become curses like our Savior who bore our curse on the cross for us. In Him, we are freed to give our lives away fearlessly and gladly.

Understanding the fierce love of God drives us to mission.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Moses shows a very similar security in God's love in Exodus 32: at one moment he's asking God to forgive the people, then he burns with anger towards them (has 3000 killed), and then he asks God to have himself blotted out of His book for the people. I don't know exactly what it is, but it seems Moses, like Jesus and Paul, had such great faith in God's covenant faithfulness that it set him free to passionately serve the people of God.