Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:35,37
Daniel J. Habben
Duct-taping a torn hiking boot is not a lasting solution. I know. I’ve tried. Resoling the boot with needle and thread would have been a better option, but, even then, the sole of the boot would have eventually detached again. There’s no such thing as a permanent bond . . . is there?
God’s forever love
Actually there is: Christ’s love for sinners. So says the apostle Paul in Romans chapter 8.
Picture Jesus’ outstretched arms on the cross. In his death, Jesus flung out his arms to embrace a world of sinners with God’s forgiveness. Paul wants you to know that nothing can come between you and Jesus’ embrace. A cancer diagnosis can’t pull you from his arms. Not even death can break his tender hold.
God’s love for us in Jesus surrounds and protects us in death the way a submarine surrounds and protects the sailors inside. When a submarine disappears under the waves, onlookers don’t panic. They know the sub will surface again and everyone inside it will be okay. That’s also true of a Christian in his coffin. In time, he will surface again—alive and well!
God’s protecting love
No, nothing can separate us from God’s love, but there are plenty of things that can distract us from it. When I spend more time poring over online product reviews than I do studying my Bible, for example, I may begin to think that my life would be better if only I had nicer patio furniture. When I fail to turn off my phone at devotion time, I’m tempted to check the latest text—as if my friend’s inane comments are somehow more important than what the eternal God has to say to me.
Have I made you feel guilty for succumbing to these temptations? Then picture again those outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross. There is another way to regard that posture: like a police officer holding back a surging mob. And that’s exactly what Jesus was doing on the cross—holding back God’s surging anger over the many ways we despise his love. Sinless Jesus was struck down by God’s anger, but his fallen body became a shield behind which the world can hide. His resurrected body is proof his protection holds. Behind Jesus, God’s anger will not touch us. Behind Jesus, sin need not control us; guilt need not consume us.
But if nothing can separate us from God’s forever love, why is life sometimes so cruel? Sometimes you feel like a sheep being dragged to the slaughterhouse (Romans 8:36). Maybe you feel like a guinea pig in the care of your doctor as you undergo various treatments with no success. Maybe you can even relate to Wile E. Coyote from the old Looney Tunes cartoons, whose best laid plans always ended in disaster. Perhaps you are looking forward to life’s end so you can be with Jesus and escape life’s misery.
But you don’t have to go to heaven to be with Jesus. Jesus is already with you. You are, even at this moment, surrounded by his love. And nothing and no one can take you away from that embrace.
Contributing editor Daniel Habben is pastor at St. Peter, St. Albert, Alberta, Canada.
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Author: Daniel J. Habben
Volume 104, Number 2
Issue: February 2017
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