If God Is for Us, Who Cares Who's Against Us?
Preparing for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Two Days before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 79:1-9
Old Testament: Jeremiah 8:1-13
Epistle: Romans 8:31-39
Psalter: Psalm 113
Old Testament: Ezekiel 22:17-31
Epistle: Romans 8:31-39
Hear our prayers, God of power, and through the ministry of your Son free us from the grip of the tomb, that we may desire you as the fullness of life and proclaim your saving deeds to all the world. Amen.
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? No, in all these things we are more than victorious through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 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, 34, 37-39).
The title of this post is my conceptual translation of Romans 8:39. Paul does not flippantly dismiss suffering and pain in this life, nor does he callously reject the power that the enemies of the gospel wield, whether individual or corporate. If Paul were here today, no one would ever hear him singing that oldie, “Don’t worry be happy.” The evil in life and the brokenness that accompanies it are serious; so much so that as Paul tells the Romans, God did not spare his own Son since that is what it took to offer deliverance to us.
But, Paul does assure the Romans that whatever or whomever is against them in life ultimately cannot undo the deliverance offered in Jesus Christ. In other words, Paul’s message is that the worst that can happen to us cannot compare to the best God has already accomplished for us in Jesus Christ. There is future hope in God’s ultimate liberation of humanity from sin and death precisely because the central work of salvation has already happened in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We will be more than conquerors because we have already conquered the enemies that threaten us. Notice that Paul does not say that we did the conquering; the victory has been secured by Christ alone, but we get to live in the light of that divine triumph. Theologian Karl Barth writes,
The Easter message tells us that our enemies, sin, the curse and death, are beaten. Ultimately they can no longer start mischief. They still behave as though the game were not decided, the battle not fought; we must still reckon with them, but fundamentally we must cease to fear them any more. If you have heard the Easter message, you can no longer run around with a tragic face and lead the humorless existence of a man who has no hope. One thing still holds, and only this one thing is really serious, that Jesus is the Victor.
The Apostle attempts to cover the gamut of everything that life can throw at us—distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword—and even those entities that are beyond earthly threats—death, life, angels, rulers, the present, the future, the powers, height, depth, and just in case he missed something he ends with “nor anything else in all creation.” In Jesus Christ, God has so bound himself in love to his creation, that separation from that love in unthinkable. Thus, Paul can state with confidence, “If God is for us, who is against us.” If God is for us, who cares who’s against us.
The worst that can happen to us cannot compare to the best God has already accomplished for us in Jesus Christ.
We hope for the future because of what God has already done.
PRAYER: We praise your abiding guidance, O God, for you sent us Jesus, our Teacher and Messiah, to model for us the way of love for the whole universe. We offer these prayers of love on behalf of ourselves and our neighbors, on behalf of your creation and our fellow creatures.