Spiritual Reflection – God’s Love in Christ Jesus
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38–39 NRSV)
Paul’s Letter to the Romans is in my top 3 favourite books of the Bible; and the passage from 8:31–39 is one of my favourite passages from the Bible. This passage took on particular significance for me following the death of my father in January of 2016.
My dad had been born into what was notionally a Roman Catholic family, but he was never a ‘practicing Catholic’. He told me on a number of occasions during his life that he didn’t believe in God. His ‘lack of belief’ was based on the hardship and suffering he endured in his own childhood, the details of which I need not comment on in this reflection. Sufficed to say, he was of the opinion that if there was a God, then why did God allow suffering in the world.
In the weeks leading up to his death, Dad spent a number of days in hospital, and during one of my visits to see him, our conversation turned to the topic of God. At that time, I was preparing to be ordained a Deacon on Saturday 6th February, and while (as I mentioned earlier) Dad wasn’t a ‘churchgoer’, he planned on being at St Paul’s Cathedral for my ordination. The prognosis Dad had been given by the doctors who were treating him was not good, and as I sat by his bedside, I asked him what arrangements he wanted made for his funeral. He then began to ask me questions about my own faith; what it was that I believed and why I believed it. After a time of me answering his questions, I asked him if he would me to read him something from the Bible, to which he replied yes.
The passage I read was Romans 8:31–39 which, as I’ve already alluded to, was a particular favourite of mine. After me reading it to him, Dad told me that he felt a ‘sense of peace’, and he then said to me, “Maybe there is a God after all”. That passage, was the one my sister and I chose as the Scripture reading at Dad’s funeral.
It is a passage I often turn when I feel troubled. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38–39 NRSV) Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus – there is something profoundly comforting for me in those words. No matter how dark my life might become, and what pressures might be brought to bear on me, nothing can ever separate me from God’s love.
Paul asks the question: who can bring any charges against God’s people? He then gives us the answer: no one; God alone can justify. He then asks a further question: who can condemn? Again the answer is God alone, but Paul goes on to elaborate that God is not going to condemn us because Jesus, who died for us and was raised from the dead, now sits at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf. The Gospel of John reminds us that God loved us so much that he sent his only Son into the world so that if we believe in him (Jesus), we will have eternal life.
Unfortunately my dad didn’t have the opportunity to see my ordination; he died the week before on Saturday 31st January. I don’t know if he came to truly believe in God before he died, but I know on that night in the hospital, when I read the passage from the letter to the Romans, he was certainly comforted by the words that he heard, and I do know that when he left this world, he did so in the love and care of God.