August 3, 2014 –– 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Romans 8:35, 37–39
Going Deep Beyond Our Understanding
We often feel the pain of hard things we do not understand. Our world is full of these things, and some of them come too close to every one of us. For those who are willing to expend the effort of understanding, the eighth chapter of St Paul’s letter to the Romans offers a wonderful perspective that gives, not easy answers, but a reasonable hope as we live in a hard world. Someone has said, “God permits what he hates in order to accomplish what he loves.” This raises the ongoing question: Why hard things?.... The inspired Apostle tilts the focus of one answer this way: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? (v35). Even hard things are not beyond the love of God.
Hard things can certainly unsettle us, but when we focus too much on the hard things instead of the big picture that God gives through the Scriptures and in the Church―the “seen” rather than the perspective of the “unseen” (2Cor 4:18)―we find ourselves perplexed with questions we cannot answer. Remember the humble confession in v26: we do not know how to pray.... When we focus too much on this world (that is not our final home), we can quickly find ourselves drowning in situations where “we do not know.”
What do we do when we “do not know?” Here is yet another answer: We are supposed to go deeper. We are to dive into the sure things God has said and done. This takes us to more foundational questions, and here we get answers in this wonderful eighth chapter of Romans:
― If God is for us, who can be against us? (v31)
― He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all―how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (v32)
― Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies (v33).
― Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died―more than that, who was raised to life―is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us (v34).
These answers require reflection. At the same time, they are given with a force that is apparent to anyone who believes that God has acted for our salvation. Jesus himself is praying for us right now!
Hold onto this: God is going to accomplish his purpose! What is that purpose? It is to have, through his Son, people who are like him. No matter what happens in the meantime―trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword―we can believe that if God is working his Spirit into us in all these things, one day we will be like him. This is our salvation!
How? Imagine a colony of grubs living on the bottom of a swamp. And every once in a while, one of these grubs is inclined to climb a leaf stem to the surface. Then he disappears above the surface and never returns. All the grubs wonder why this is so and what it must be like up there, so they counsel among themselves and agree that the next one who goes up will come back and tell the others. Not long after that, one of the grubs feels the urge and climbs that leaf stem and goes out above the surface onto a lily pad. And there in the warmth of the sun, he falls asleep. While he sleeps, the carapace of the tiny creature breaks open, and out of the inside of the grub comes a magnificent dragonfly with beautiful, wide, rainbow-hued, iridescent wings. And he spreads those wings and flies, soaring out over those waters. But then he remembers the commitment he has made to those behind, yet now he knows he cannot return. They would not recognize him in the first place, and beyond that, he could not live again in such a place. But one thought is his that takes away all the distress: they, too, shall climb the stem, and they, too, shall know the glory (Bruce Thielemann, Christus Imperator). Remember this.... as a Christian, you are destined for glory.
Why? Hear it again: God has acted for our salvation. God is going to accomplish his purpose! Here is a promise for every person who is trusting Jesus Christ: 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.