The word for the day is “sorrow.” How far can love go? What are its limits? St. Porphyrios wrote, “He who loves little, gives little. He who loves more gives more, and he who loves beyond measure what has he to give? He gives himself” (Porphyrios 2005, 96). In our reading of Romans 9:1-5, Paul expresses the extent of his love for his fellow Jews. He says, “I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (OSB vs. 2-3). Today we probe into Paul’s depth of love for others, and it inspires us also to seek to love to the limit of giving ourselves for others.
In today’s passage, Paul reveals the grief over the rejection of most Jews to the Gospel. He says that “great sorrow” fills his heart. That phrase refers to severe emotional distress, the kind of heaviness of heart that is emotionally devastating (Strong’s #3077, 153). The Apostle’s expression of his intense grief may be surprising to us since his anguish is over the rejection of the Jews to the Gospel of Christ, and Paul has taken upon himself the role of the champion of the Gentiles. He has argued forcefully that the Jewish Law need not and should not be applied to the Gentiles since Christ has fulfilled the Law. He even has written that the believing Gentiles have now been grafted onto the tree of God’s Promises. But as a consequence of his actions, the disbelieving Jews have broken off from that tree of salvation.
So why has sorrow for them filled his heart? In this short passage, we find several reasons. St. Paul is a Jew himself, and the Israelites are his fellow “countrymen” (OSB vs. 2). It must have caused the apostle deep sadness when time and again he would proclaim Jesus as the Promised Messiah in a synagogue only to face rejection and even violent opposition. More than that, the Jews are those whom God “adopted” as His people. Through them, God gave the covenant and the Law, as well as the true worship of God, and His promises (OSB vs. 4). And through them, He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into the world (OSB vs. 5).
The Extent of Paul’s Love
Recalling all of this, we can begin to grasp why Paul says that he would wish to be even accursed for the sake of the Jews if only they would turn to Christ. In Romans 8, he wrote the glorious hymn that “Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). But now in our reading, he declares that he would be willing to be cut off and separated from Christ if the Jews would believe and be restored to their inheritance.
The kind of love that St. Paul expresses is remarkable. He would even suffer God’s curse and exchange his inheritance of the kingdom for the sake of his kinsmen. But let’s recall that the Lord Jesus did become accursed for our salvation. The apostle says in Galatians, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'” (Galatians 3:13).
Walking in Love
May we not only admire this self-giving love. May it be our goal and purpose of our lives. St Porphyrios wrote, “One thing is our aim… love towards Christ and towards one’s neighbor, towards everyone, including one’s enemies. The Christian feels for everyone, he wants all to be saved, all to taste the Kingdom of God” (Porphyrios 2005, 97). But love is more than a wish, an attitude of kindness, and a feeling of concern. Love is the active giving of oneself. Thus Paul writes, “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma (OSB Ephesians 5:2).
Are we capable of such sacrificial love? Must we be a saint like Paul to possess such and to endure rejection, persecution, and even death for it? The Lord said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (OSB John 14:34). And the apostle says in 1 John “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another (OSB 1 John 4:9-10). These texts teach us that love is a command, and an obligation (Strong’s #3784, 184). But it is also the result, a consequence of the love of God. Thus the apostle writes, “We loved because He first loved us” (NIV 1 John 4:19). We might say we love “inasmuch” as He has loved us.
The Love of Christ Melts Our Hearts
We are able to love as Christ loves when we know and accept the love of God. It is like a candle. Candlewax is solid and hard until it ignited with a flame. But then it became soft then liquid. The wax flows, and it gives itself to burning of the flame. So also, the love of Christ melts our hearts so that they burn with love, burn not only for Him but for everyone and everything without distinction. And in that burning, we give ourselves up to bring the light of God to the world around us.
 The word “Him” in the New King James Version is an interpolation and should be omitted. The apostle is speaking of love in the most universal, general, and unlimited sense.
St. Porphyrios. Wounded by Love. Denise Harvey; Fourth Printing edition (January 1, 2005)