WHAT COULD SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD?
Paul doesn’t just say that nothing can separate us from the love of God. He goes on to detail the things that could possibly arise in our minds as being able to separate us from God’s love. After that, he proclaims ‘Not these or anything else at all can ever come between us and God’s love for us’.
Let’s quickly run through the list Paul addresses. These could be some of our fears today.
1. DEATH AND LIFE
Death is an unwelcome guest. It separates people from their loved ones. The thought that we cannot see our beloved person anymore on earth brings grief and sorrow. So Paul says in other words that death may separate us from our family and possessions but it cannot keep us away from God’s love. The Bible says that when we are absent from this body we are present with God. It does not separate us from God at all. In fact, it takes us right into His presence. So we don’t have to fear death. Jesus promises that He will raise us back to life. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, ‘But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope’. We have reason for hope – hope of an eternal, forever life with Jesus.
Now, if death is painful then life is not too far either. Many of our lives are not immune to difficulties and calamities. ‘Where is God when life hurts’ often seems to be a fitting cry of the heart? But the life of a follower of Jesus experiences tender love even in the midst of life’s pains.
Let me tell you the story of John Chrysostom. He was a celebrated preacher and known as the ‘man with the golden mouth’. Some of his sermons were so convicting that his audience would squirm in their seats uncomfortably. Well, it so happened that one day the Emperor of the nation felt that Chrysostom was talking about his sinful life. Fuming, the Emperor had him arrested and brought before him for trial.
He glared at Chrysostom and told him that he would be banished if he didn’t stop preaching. Chrysostom simply replied, ‘Banishing means sending me to a place where there is nothing. But that won’t be true in my case. Because wherever I go, my Heavenly Father will be there. I am not afraid of being banished’.
The Emperor retorted, ‘Then I will kill you’. Chrysostom calmly said, ‘My life is hidden with Christ and is safe in his hands. I am not afraid of death’.
The Emperor countered, ‘I will take away all your material possessions’. Chrysostom replied, ‘The Bible says that where your heart is there our possessions will be. I have given my heart to Jesus. I am not afraid of possessing nothing’.
Finally, the Emperor said, ‘Fine, then I will drive you away from all men to a place where you will have no friends’. Chrysostom said, ‘Sure, you might be able to separate me from all my friends, except for one friend – Jesus Christ. He will be with me no matter where I go’.
Isn’t that incredible? No threat could separate him from God’s love. And therefore, nothing could stop him from doing his God-ordained duty.
Another similarly exciting story is Paul’s. 2 Corinthians 11:23-26 says, ‘Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren’.
Clearly, Paul knew what TROUBLE meant – in life and in his imminent death. Having gone through and knowing that he would probably die soon for his faith in Jesus, He says, ‘NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD’.
…to be continued…