SCRIPTURE: Romans 9:2 (CEB) - larger reading Romans 9:1-5
I have great sadness and constant pain in my heart.
Joseph M. Stowell shares the following story: We were on our annual Christmas trek to Chicago. Each year we brought our family to spend time with Grandpa and Grandma and visit the museums. This year we decided to finish our Christmas shopping at suburban Woodfield Mall. In the midst of all the fun and excitement, one of us noticed that little three-and-a-half- year-old Matthew was gone. Terror immediately struck our hearts. We had heard the horror stories: little children kidnapped in malls, rushed to a rest room, donned in different clothes and altered hairstyle, and then swiftly smuggled out, never to be seen again...We split up, each taking an assigned location. Mine was the parking lot. I'll never forget that night--kicking through the newly fallen snow, calling out his name at the top of my lungs. I felt like an abject fool, yet my concern for his safety outweighed all other feelings.
Unsuccessful, I trudged back to our meeting point. My wife, Martie, had not found him, nor had my mother. And then my dad appeared, holding little Matthew by the hand. Our hearts leapt for joy. Interestingly enough, Matthew was untraumatized. He hadn't been crying. To him, there had been no problem. I asked my father where he had found him. "The candy counter," he replied. "You should have seen him. His eyes came just about as high as the candy. He held his little hands behind his back and moved his head back and forth, surveying all the luscious options." Matthew didn't look lost. He didn't know he was lost. He was oblivious to the phenomenal danger he was in. This is a candy-counter culture, where people who don't look lost and don't know they're lost live for consumption.
“Great pain in his heart” writes Paul, for the least, the last, and the lost. Probably for a people or tribe or nation of people that didn’t know that they were the least, the last or the lost. They might have been like Matthew in Mr. Stowell’s story – lost, but didn’t know it. Does it make the pain easier to handle if the person(s) don’t know that they are lost? Absolutely not. Does it make it easier for us who carry the pain of their lostness? Absolutely not.
And yet, we try to live as if it doesn’t matter. Hey, we think, it is their fault that they are lost. Why should it bother me? It should matter because they matter to God. Period… end of story. Even if they refuse to be reconciled … should it matter? What do you think? Again, it matters to God… enough said.
Should it bother us enough that we lose sleep over them? What do you think? Should it bother us enough that we won’t stop until they come back to the fold? What do you think?
That constant pain is the Spirit of God troubling the waters of our soul. And, God will continue to stir the pot until we start doing something. And the story continues… until all God’s people come back to him.
Do not allow me to rest until your children are brought back home!