Romans (8)

Read – Romans 8.31-39

On November 18, 1991, Shihiite Muslims kidnappers in Lebanon freed Anglican churchman Terry Waite.  Waite had been sent to Lebanon as a special envoy by the Archbishop of Canterbury to negotiate the release of other hostages.  He successfully negotiated the release of ten hostages before being taken himself and spending four harrowing years as a captive.

During captivity, Waite said he was frequently blindfolded, beaten, and subjected to mock executions.  When his captors moved him they transported him in a giant refrigerator.  Much of the time he was chained to a radiator.

One can only imagine the immense relief after being freed from such a harrowing experience.  One could become bitter and angry or one can take a different route.  In 2004, Waite returned to Beirut for the first time since his release from captivity. He told the BBC, "If you are bitter, it will eat you up and do more damage to you than to the people who have hurt you."

Something of that surprised relief is reflected in these last verses of Romans 8, one of the most glorious chapters in the entire letter.  We look around to see who has condemned us?  Who is against us?  Who will bring a charge against us?  Each time the answer is a resounding ‘no one!’  God has given us God’s Son, God justifies us, and because Jesus has been raised from the dead and intercedes for us, nothing shall separate us from God’s love, ever!

Assurance is a little used word in theology these days.  Perhaps it sounds too smug or arrogant.  But assurance is what this text offers to followers of Christ.  For all who live by the gospel, Paul offers us the comfort that only God can give. 

The great preacher and poet, John Donne puts it this way in one of his sermons:   God’s love is like a circle; and a circle is endless. Whom God loves, he loves to the end; and his end is, not that he should cease to love them; no: his end is, to love them still.  

Questions for reflection:

1        What contemporary situations come to mind when you think about people experiencing the conflict of hostile powers?

2        Romans 8 stresses that to be a Christian is to have the Spirit ‘dwelling within.’  What would happen if the church understood itself as the community of the Spirit rather than a community of faith?

3        The early Anabaptists saw themselves as co-sufferers with Christ and went to their deaths with confidence and hope.   How do we affirm such assurance in our own experience?