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?

Driv4r_81's picture

Matt 13:44-46

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

~ Sorry but nah ;-)

In view of these scriptures and others, I would say that if someone were to get to the point where he loves someone enough to be willing to cut himself off from God for thier sake(s), as Paul "desired", then they have just committed idolatry.

If Paul literally desired that then he could not have understood the fact that Christ is the last mediator between God and man. Essentially, he would have had to doubt the sufficiency in the atonement of Christ and the foreknowledge and election of God and ultimately desire to take on the very characteristics of the son of God himself, which is at best impossible and at worst, abject blasphemy. If you think about it further, Paul would be wishing for an exchange that overrides the free will of those whom he loved. Don't we always say that God loves us so much that he lets us choose? Is it not a greater way? Was Paul's love greater than God's love? If that was his literal desire than his love would have erred as it had not followed suit with the same rule which God instated.

But I think Paul knew better.

The emotions that Paul was experiencing in vv 1-2, could have lead him to dangerous ideologies, but he instead, begins to restrain himself with sound judgment based upon the word of God starting in vs 6 where he says "It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel..."

I think Paul's words were only to be understood as an intense message of passion and zeal. That is all. His words are an exaggeration. Exaggerations are wonderful, thought provoking literary tools, commonly used by society even today. The usage of the hyperbole, which is essentailly an exaggeration, is also frequently used in scripture. It is used countless times by the prophets of the old testament. A hyperbole is an exaggeration in attempt to prove a point. Paul's point was that he deeply cared about this specific people group.

An additional point worth taking note of is his choice to use the word wish instead of pray in vs 3 "For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race,"