"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present, nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Of any verses in the Bible, these have always by far meant the most to me. Through the many family trials, the changes in life, the transitions and the losses, this promise of God is the foundation of all that I am, of all that I strive to do. It is what has kept me in the arms of God. It is His inseparable love that gives me hope in the midst of my fears, meaning in the midst of my doubt, solace in the divorces of life and relationships, joy in my despair, and peace somewhere deeper than it all.
Reading this verse again recently a phrase was highlighted: neither death nor life. And that is what I want to think about a bit now.
I feel like I have a bad tendency, especially when reading scripture, to view a list as one complete concept. It's not so important what every object is, but rather the point that they make as a whole--so I gloss over the words for the greater point. Here it would be that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing. But that is not the full truth. Not only nothing, but no thing. And some of those particular things are pretty important. It might be easy to let the connection slip because these are the first two in the list--but these things do not separate us from the love of God. Death cannot. Life cannot.
Death cannot separate us from the love of God. This is maybe the one we focus on the most. "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" We are freed from the wages of sin. But so often we are still not freed from the fear of it. Death may no longer be the victor, but who of us have not felt its sting? Who of us do not fear our own death, or even worse that of who we care most about?
Not only is our own death unable to separate us from the love of God, but it also cannot separate us in others' deaths. The pain of grief and loss will never be able to make us fully empty. Let everything pass away, still we would not be alone or unloved.
There is another death that cannot separate us from God: the death of ourselves, our earthly nature, the part of us still opposed to God. Acts of sin no longer separate us from God--the rest of Romans 8 is quite clear about that. It is a heart held on to sin and independence that shuts God out (his presence, not his love). But the war with our flesh and the sins that remain, the sins that are not who we truly are anymore--those cannot separate us from God either. That's what the end of Romans 7 is all about. Do not worry over the part of you that is still being put to death and the failures there--they do not separate you from God. Keep your heart seeking him, your inner being delighting in the Lord, and there is no separation.
But in this it is not the death that separates us, but the remnants of the old life. And this does not have any power either.
Life cannot separate us from the love of God. Life. Oh we know that death can't keep us from God anymore, but really? neither can life?
Your life cannot keep you from the love of God.
What is your life? Your life is all you are, all you have been, all you will be. Everything you've ever done. Every terrible moment, every sacred offering. Even the most beautiful service cannot make God love you anymore. His love for you is no less nor more than for Mother Teresa, than for a murdering terrorist.
Life cannot keep us from the love of God. Whatever it has to throw at you. Life can certainly seem pretty cruel at times. And it's in many ways all we know. But it is not all we have. We have something far greater. We have the love of God.