A Heavenly Identity

By Michael Fitzpatrick

The Feast of St. Joseph

A Reading from Romans 8:28-39

28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

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.


In a particularly poignant essay entitled “The Christian Hope,” Bishop John A. T. Robinson writes,

Christians are those whose hope is from heaven, not for heaven; or, rather, not for heaven as opposed to earth. Their promise is of a renovated cosmos which will include a new heaven and a new earth, an order, that is to say, in which all things, spiritual and material, shall be fully reconciled in Christ. It is a hope for history, not a release from history.

Such good news is what animates St. Paul’s many effusions throughout his epistle to the church in Rome. The first eleven chapters of Romans work out one of the central hallmarks of the Kingdom of Heaven, that in God’s family “there is no distinction” between people (Rom. 3:22b). Class, race, wealth, fame, gender, religion, marriage, political party — none of these categories by which we carve up humanity into various tribes counts for or against a person in the Kingdom. St. Paul is speaking to anyone who has been told their identity precludes them from God’s promises.

Our union with Christ has given us a new identity, for we are a new creation. Central to this identity is that “God is for us.” St. Paul then asks, “If God is for us, who is against us?” Even if we are persecuted and oppressed for our earthly identities, “God-for-us” is not an earthly identity, but heavenly, our citizenship in the Kingdom. Marked by this identity, the identity wherein our advocate and vindicator is none other than the Creator of this universe, justice will reach all our other identities. God will not cease to fight for us when God did not withhold even the only begotten Son of the Most High, who was given up for us all. If even the sacrifice Jesus offered on the cross is worth our redemption, will God not redeem us in all things?

Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in philosophy at Stanford University. He attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, Calif., where he serves as a lay preacher and teacher.

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Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Western Louisiana
The Diocese of Ayod (Episcopal Church of South Sudan)


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