“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38-39 NLT
Paul finishes Romans 8 with an amazing statement of faith, that has been quoted and requoted many times since he wrote it. Through his experience of God, his faith in how much God loved him had transformed him from a vague hope to a position where he was “convinced”. Paul had no doubts that God’s love for him was total. And he was equally convinced that nothing could separate him from it.
Paul lists a number of things that he knows won’t get in the way of God’s love for him, things that perhaps give us a little insight into Paul’s character. He firstly had on his mind his mortality, writing that “neither death nor life” mattered when God’s love was considered. We know that Paul apparently had a total disregard for his personal safety, even expressing his will to leave this life and move on to a new life with Jesus. He wrote in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better”. He was “convinced” that God’s love for him would not be any different whether or not he was dead or alive.
Paul goes on to next mention “angels or demons”. I wonder why they were on his mind? In 21st Century Planet Earth we don’t talk very much about supernatural beings, of any flavour. But Paul’s spiritual insight was acute and he was very much aware of benevolent and malign spirits. In Acts 16:16 we read, “One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit that enabled her to tell the future. She earned a lot of money for her masters by telling fortunes”. The rest of the story in Acts 16 describes how Paul ended up in prison. To Paul, this was a matter of fact encounter with a demon, and he dealt with it there and then. No prayer meeting. No exorcism ritual. No pleading with God. He just dealt with the problem using the power and authority God had given him. So Paul was “convinced” that no spiritual power from anywhere, be it Heaven or hell, could interfere with God’s love for him.
How about us pilgrims? How convinced are we about God’s love for us? And does it make any difference whether or not God loves us? Are we motivated and empowered by His love or are we just living a life that includes an occasional encounter with God on a Sunday in a church meeting, where we sing a few songs or say a few prayers from the prayer book? The fact that God loves us was why Jesus came to this world in the first place. We read again those words in John 3:16, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life”. There is no love greater than that. God’s love for us is not just an abstract thought, a few nice but irrelevant words in the Bible. His love for us has the capability of transforming us from ordinary human beings into a people who, like Paul, have no regard for personal safety and who are desperate to share that love with those around us. God’s love motivated Paul; does it motivate us?
Father. We know your love for us is limitless. We humbly respond and say we love You. We know that without You we are in a hopeless and dark place. But Your love shines within us with a light too bright to extinguish. Thank You. Amen.