By David Baumann
A Reading from Romans 8:31-39
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son but gave him up for all of us, how will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ who died, or rather, who was raised, who is also at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than victorious through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced 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.
This is an amazing lesson, so positive, so encouraging, so laugh-out-loud victorious, so often quoted. Yet let us not overlook that its guarantee of triumph is made in the context of a long list of severe catastrophes. To be a conqueror, and more than a conqueror, requires that there must be something to conquer — an enemy, or even a series of enemies against which one must do battle. Paul is saying that horrifying things can face believers, but that the believers will always win. He most assuredly does not say that life in Christ will be easy.
In a long ministry, I have known adults who had been savagely abused as children; parents whose children died of illness or violence; people who were targets of widespread hateful character assassination; a man sentenced to life in prison for a crime he did not commit; victims of violence or theft; addicts whose lives were in ruins and whose relationships were all but destroyed; and others. No doubt most readers of this devotion can say the same. I have known many people who have just drifted away from the faith for no apparent reason, but very rarely have I known anyone who has gone through a life-crushing calamity like those I list above whose faith has not been strengthened by it. I have been humbled many times when such people come truly to believe that “If God is for us, who can be against us?” and “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” God preserve the faithful from any great heartbreak! But if we must face one, may it truly teach us that nothing shall “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Te Pihopatanga o Manawa o Te Wheke – The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
Trinity Episcopal Church, Vero Beach, Fla.