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.
We should read these words as pure gospel, good news, and comfort. They are words of present assurance and future hope in the redemption already achieved by the cross of Christ. Though the Apostle Paul thinks of the future the message he relays is for the present. We are more than conquerors now. We have already been loved by God through Christ. St. Paul says that nothing will be able to separate us from Gods love, which means we already have that love.
But that love triumphs at a terrible price: the death of Gods Son (v. 34). It is won through the defeat of everything that opposes that love: death/life, angels/rulers, present/future, powers, height/depth. Nothing is excluded in this list since it includes all creation. Yet, in the face of such rebellious and seemingly overpowering forces Gods love triumphs. These words of Paul therefore are words of comfort to the dying, the despairing, the lost and beaten. They fall on the deaf ears of the satisfied and complacent. But for those whose faith leads them into suffering and persecution (see vv. 33-36) these words are salve on their wounds for they spell the promise that separation from Gods love is never a possibility.
For Paul the supreme moment of triumph is hidden in the Lords cross. It comes when we are shorn of our pride and pretense and hang naked in vulnerable surrender; when every form of human security is jettisoned and all we have left is humble worthlessness a crushed and defeated soul. No longer do we shout for our rights and freedoms, only forgiveness. Then the cry of Conqueror! is heard on the lips of the Apostle. In that moment of supreme defeat we have one word to whisper across the cosmos: Jesus! Our defeat is his victory, is our triumph. In that moment comes the judgment of all the vast universe ... one person at a time. The old powers are lost to oblivion and each day a new defeat is proclaimed and life reborn. This is why the Saint may say he is certain and rests assured that nothing can separate us from Gods love in Christ. For there is nothing Christ has not defeated through the cross; even death. All the powers that would pull us from Gods embrace our pride, our desires, our fears and ambitions have with the elemental spirits of the universe become captives to his mercy. Surrender is the only response to such unconquerable love and more than total victory the only outcome for us.
Roy A. Harrisville III is senior pastor of Our Saviors Lutheran Church in Menomonie, Wisconsin.
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