Among people critical of Christianity, the apostle Paul has a pretty bad press. Whilst quite a few of them recognize that Jesus had an exceptionally high ethic (at least for his time), Paul is generally regarded as a villain having sort of corrupted the message of his master.
While I certainly think Paul had several culturally conditioned false beliefs (about women and homosexuals for instance), I do believe he was a man full of an incredible love and altruism.
There is no better place than the beginning of Roman 9 to notice that:
“I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. „
For the sake of his fellows Jews, Paul was not only ready to lay down his life in this world but also forever. To realize the extent of his altruistic love, just ask yourself what it would be like for you to give up eternal life for the benefits of other people.
But this passage is also very challenging for our understanding of the atonement of Christ. For the sacrifice Paul intended seems much greater than the ordeal Jesus was willing to undergo before being raised from the dead.
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