Would you give up your salvation for another's?

michael_legna's picture

I was doing some research on the term anathema (for an answer in another thread) and was reminded of an old question we were presented with as children in parochial school with regard to how much we could love another or how far that love would go. You know - hypothetical ideas like would you die for another etc.?

The specific question is would you give up your salvation if you could lead another person to theirs?

I always thought that I would not do that. That was too much to ask of anyone - to give up eternity with God so another could have that. But in doing my research I ran across the following quotes in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Like I said the research I ran across starts out speaking about the meaning of anathema (which it takes as referencing separation - rather than accursedness - though it should be noted both work for this topic) so it precedes the text above with this...

"A term formerly indicating offerings made to the divinity which were suspended from the roof or walls of temples for the purpose of being exposed to view. Thus anathema according to its etymology signifies a thing offered to God. The word anathema is sometimes used in this sense in the Old and New Testaments: In Judith, xvi, 23, it is said that Judith, having taken all the arms of Holofernes which the people had given him and the curtain of his bed which she herself had brought,offered them to the Lord as an anathema of oblivion. In II Mach., ix, 16, Antiochus promises to adorn with precious gifts (anathemata) the temple he has pillaged; and in Luke, xxi, 5, mention is made of the temple built of precious stones and adorned with rich gifts (anathemata). As odious objects were also exposed to view, e.g. the head of a criminal or of an enemy, or his arms or spoils, the word anathema came to signify a thing hated, or execrable, devoted to public abhorrence or destruction. "To understand the word anathema", says Vigouroux, "we should first go back to the real meaning of herem of which it is the equivalent. Herem comes from the word haram, to cut off, to separate, to curse, and indicates that which is cursed and condemned to be cut off or exterminated, whether a person or a thing, and in consequence, that which man is forbidden to make use of."

...and then goes to pointing out one of the uses of the term in New Testament scripture and how it expresses just how far Paul would have gone to bring another to Christ and his expression of love goes to being separated or accursed of Christ.

"In the New Testament anathema no longer entails death, but the loss of goods or exclusion from the society of the faithful. St. Paul frequently uses this word in the latter sense. In the Epistle to the Romans (9:3) he says: "For I wished myself to be an anathema from Christ, for my brethren, who are my kinsmen according to the flesh", i.e. "I should wish to be separated and rejected of Christ, if by that means I would procure the salvation of my brethren."

Here is the actual verse in question:

Rom 9:3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

The term accursed is the English translation of anathema.

All this sounds to me like I got it wrong as a child, and would not have gone far enough with my expression of love in this entirely hypothetical situation. What do you all think?

michael_legna's picture

Interesting idea

Maria said -
No great thinker here but I remember a place where Paul said that he would much rather be dead and with Christ but knows that for the sake of the church or the people, he must be in the world separated from Him (Christ) so that others will also know Him. (It's late can't find the verse right now)

This would be the way that I would give. I would rather stay in the world, suffering my torments longer in whatever fashion I am given so that I could bring more to Christ and this would be keeping me away from my soul's happiness for the sake of another's salvation. This I would do.


You don't give yourself enough credit - that is an interesting take on the verse - one I had not considered.

Oh and by the way here is the verse you are thinking of I suspect:

2 Cor 5:1-9 1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: 3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. 4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. 5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. 6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. 9 Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

I just wonder if the "absence" mentioned in this verse (based as it is on Strong's G1553 ekdēmeō - meaning to emigrate, that is, (figuratively) vacate or quit: - be absent) is the same as the separation mentioned in Rom 9:3 (based on Strong's G331 anathema - meaning a (religious) ban or (concretely) excommunicated (thing or person): - accursed, anathema, curse).

I will have to give it some more thought as we all seem to be absent from the Lord, but we do not all seem to be separated from the Lord.




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