Romans 8:35-37 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble, or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Sometimes God’s love feels a little theological, a little theoretical, like a set of abstract principles in mathematics. It works on paper, but is it real? Oh yes it is! Look at how God’s love intersects with our lives.
In order to open our eyes and help us see God’s love more clearly, Paul gives us a list we might call “Love’s skeptics” or “Love’s deniers.” So often experience seems to contradict the idea that God loves us. Ancient life was not so different than our own. Behind words like “trouble” and “hardship” in Paul’s Greek are experiences we know all too well. “Trouble” literally has the sense of “pressure.” We feel the “squeeze.” We feel pressure to compromise our morals or our integrity from the people we work for, or from our peers at school. “Hardship” puts us in narrow place, a tight spot. The walls are closing in. The options are running out. Finally, we are cornered and trapped.
Why, if he loves us, does God let us be persecuted? How come I can’t just fit in and be accepted? Why should they others make jokes behind my back when I try to live my faith? Why should my job, my reputation, my safety be threatened because of what I believe?
If I am God’s child and he loves me, then why should I suffer famine or nakedness? Or to put it in more 21st Century American terms, why should I be living on the edge of poverty? Why should I be struggling to make ends meet? Doesn’t God promise our daily bread? What gives?
What about danger or sword? My house has to be a little fortress–dead bolts and alarms and tornado shelters–to keep me safe. And even these offer no real guarantees. Has God stopped loving us?
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” In support, Paul brings a second list. Here are the leading candidates for getting between us and God’s love for us. Every one of them is destined to fail.
“I am convinced that neither death nor life…” Death can’t do it. Although death was at one time the penalty for sin that cut us off from God, now it is the gateway to life. It is our last step on the way home. It brings us into the direct presence of God and his love. It never moves us farther away.
Life can’t do it, either. More than death, people fear the things life throws at us. We don’t want to suffer. But the worst that life has to offer is just temporary, and God promises to love us through it all.
“Neither angels nor demons…” Spiritual powers, whether good or evil, cannot do it. We should respect them because their powers greatly exceed our own. But they are no match for God and his love. Even if the good angels were to turn against us (which they would never do) God’s love remains the same. It always protects us. It always says to them, “You may go this far and no farther.” These most powerful spiritual beings (other than God himself) cannot separate us from his love.
“Neither the present nor the future nor any powers…” Nothing in time can do it. We may not like the times we live in now. They feel like evil times. Christianity and Christians seem to be in retreat. We may fear the future with all its unknowns even more. But present or future, from now until the day Jesus returns, we will be the objects of God’s love, every minute, every moment, until the clock ticks its final second and time is over.
“Neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Build a space probe and travel to the farthest edges of the universe. Dig a hole and keep digging until you come out in China. God’s love for you is bigger and more powerful than anything else that exists. You will never find anything anywhere that can separate us from God’s love.
How do we know? In his Son, on a cross, and at an empty tomb God has loved us and loves us still.