Second Reading: Romans 8:35, 37-39
Nothing Will Get In the Way
What discourages you the most? What can help you overcome your discouragement?
35 What will keep us away from Christ's love? Will pain or suffering or the meanness of others get in the way? Will hunger or lack of clothes keep us from his love? Will danger of arrest or even death by the sword deny us his love? 37 We have conquered all these things because God loved us. 38 I am convinced that nothing will get in our way, nothing! Not life or death, not angels or rulers of heaven, not the present or the future, 39 not how high or how deep the universe is, nothing in the universe. None of these things will keep us from the love God showed us through Christ Jesus our Lord.
35 What will separate us from the love of Christ? Affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 Just as it has been written: "We were being executed the entire day on your account. We were considered as sheep to the slaughter." 37 But in all these (things) we are superior conquerors through the (One) having loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor rulers, neither present (events) nor future (events) nor powers, 39 neither height nor depth nor some creation will be able to separate us from the love of God, the (one) in Christ Jesus our Lord.
8:36 This passage is from Psalm 44:22. (Did the early Christian community use this passage as a liturgical hymn in reference to Christ's suffering?) Here, Paul used the verse as a connection between the sufferings of Christ and the sufferings of early Christians (specifically his own). If Paul's own trials could not dull his faith or God's commitment to him, what could? And by extension, how could it separate Christians from their Savior?
8:38-39 Paul presented the sum extent of creation in these passages: limits of life (life-death), the presumed active agents within creation (angels and heavenly/demonic rulers), time itself (present-future events and the agents in those events), the dimensions of creation (heights of heaven, depths of the underworld, and alternative creations). Paul was convinced that anything and everything in the universe could not separate us from God's love given to us through his Son. Beyond this mind-boggling notion, Paul inferred that our place in creation stood above all powers and limitations within the universe that effect us. In other words, our place with God is intimate and eternal. Our journey in this world is temporary.
Commitment divides the weak from the strong. Can you stay with it? The answer to this question trumps any notion of personal strength as power. The bully can get his way sometimes. The self-centered will find a way, sometimes. But, the committed person will win out over the bully or the self-seeking just by shear tenacity. The true believer's stubbornness has far more staying power than those who seek advantage for the moment.
For Paul, faith was the ultimate commitment, for it envisioned an intimate place with God beyond death. If eternal life was the goal, everything else paled in comparison. The sufferings of life, the lack of necessities, even the threat of death could not stop the believer. This was true because the causes of these miseries were secondary: the limitations of life and death, present and future events, physical and spiritual power in creation, not even the universe itself could stop the love of God made manifest in Christians. Our place, the place of all who trust God, lay in his everlasting presence. Faith convinces us of that fact.
Paul was right: faith is the ultimate commitment. It is an orientation to that beyond this life and its demise. As long as we affirm that commitment, we will trust God to brush away all obstacles. Nothing will get in the way!
How has God eliminated personal obstacles? How does your faith in God help you when you feel down? When you look to the future with the Lord, do you find yourself lifted up?