What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
– Romans 8:31-39
You may know the riddle: What is Greater than God, worse than the devil, the poor have it, the rich require it and if you eat it you die? The answer: Nothing. The answer to the question, “Who or what can separate us from the love of Christ?” is also, Nothing.
These are challenging days. We have moments of delight: a funny YouTube video, a phone call from a friend, a beautiful sunset. Then come the jarring intrusions of discouragement: a major appliance breakdown, a newscast with dire predictions, word of a friend’s diagnosis, a meltdown with your spouse. The pendulum swings back and forth with little rest in the middle. Normal is a setting on your dryer; so goes the saying. It certainly does not describe life as we know it now.
How does Paul come to the conclusion that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord? Certainly Paul knew discouragement. He was beaten and left for dead on one of his missionary journeys. He had to have a lengthy discussion with the church leaders (Acts 15) about whether new Gentile converts could legitimately lay claim to being part of the body of Christ. He wrote at least two – possibly as many as four – letters chiding and correcting the church in Corinth. Paul knew discouragement.
He also knew hardship, nakedness, peril, and sword. He experienced all these things in service to the gospel he is proclaiming to the Romans here. It was likely these experiences that shaped his conviction about God’s love, and moved him to write so eloquently about it. Every other comfort had been stripped away. What else is there than the eternal, unchanging, rich, and gracious love of God.
But we must not mistake this nothing-else-than-love conviction as a matter only of settling for it in resignation. This is not merely a surrender to God’s love because nothing else will sustain you. It is that, true. Nothing else will sustain you. But this gift of God, this attitude, action, posture, and commitment of God is the power that changes hearts. It converts sinners. It comforts the bereaved. It quiets the troubled. It centers the scattered soul. It heals the broken heart.
There is nothing like it at all. There is nothing else in all creation that stands up to God’s love. And nothing can separate us from that love in Christ Jesus our Lord. I want to learn what that really means. Yes, I want to learn what that means.