Friday’s blog uses the Episcopal rreading for the day along with a headline from world news:
God’s Love in Christ Jesus
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.* 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor 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.
Paul’s sustained argument ends in a burst of eloquence. It is carefully crafted however, beginning with questions-how can we speak about God’s wisdom? Who can denigrate those whom God has chosen? Who can condemn the person who lives by trust in God? He answers these by saying that it is God who puts people right. But then he asks a more troubling question: who will separate us from the love of Messiah? This is no mere rhetorical question as all the woes of the world are still encountered by the believer, with the added danger of persecution and death because her faith. His confident answer that nothing can separate is based on his conviction that all these sufferings draw the believer closer to her crucified Lord rather than distancing her from him. This is the “love of God in Jesus Christ” -not an emotion but an astonishing act of solidarity with suffering creatures.
Perhaps Paul had witnessed a Roman “Triumph” in a provincial capital of the Empire, when a conquering general was honoured by a lavish public show. Those who in their sufferings hold to Messiah Jesus, Paul says, will be greater than any conqueror.
I know from my pastoral work as a minister how people have been comforted by Paul’s eloquence, for they are asking precisely, “Will this, this death, this betrayal, this depression, this disgrace, this poverty, separate me from the love of Christ?” Here they find that their question is taken up into Paul’s question and answered by the words he finds, “Nothing in all creation can separate me from the love of God in Jesus Messiah.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian killed by Nazis, wrote, “Only a suffering God can help.”
One way of denying that faith is abandoning any brother or sister in their need. The inseparable love of Jesus Messiah is more than the utmost we can offer but it is not less. If indeed the new Pope was silent when his people were being tortured by the Argentinian Junta, then he failed to live up to the solidarity of Jesus; but by that standard, which of us has not failed?