Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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.
This passage from the Letter to the Romans has always been a source of great comfort to me. Some of its power comes from the dramatic way Paul builds his list of potential threats to our connection Christ’s love: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” I can almost imagine his pen scratching across the face of the parchment faster and faster and faster as his list builds. And then finally the booming, “No!” “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Every time I read or speak these words, I want to add: “Preach it, brother!”
Another reason I find this passage so meaningful is the memories it calls forth from the recesses of my soul. I don’t think there is passage I’ve read more often at the graveside of a saint who has passed from this life than this passage from Romans 8. So many faces pass in front of my mind’s eye I can’t keep count. And yet, through Paul’s assurance and confidence, my connection to those beloved who have died remains strong.
“Nothing can separate us.” What more important words can we hear during these days of physical separation. I am thankful for all the ways we remain spiritually connected when we cannot gather in person. I feel that connection as the prayers roll in “live” during our worship. I think of the teachers and leaders leading their groups and classes online. I give thanks for the support our Food Ministry receives through online donations from people who cannot serve in person. I am so excited to see our Vineyard ministry take flight and am so grateful for those who have stepped forward to help us remain connected during this time.
Paul’s words make me especially concerned for those for whom physical separation is such a burden. This morning I heard that nearly half of Americans are reporting that they are suffering from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues due to the pandemic. Signs are that this will become even worse as economic upheavals are linked with increases in suicide and substance abuse rates. What is really concerning is that funding for mental health services tends to be one of the most vulnerable areas in difficult economic times.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. I believe that. I also believe that we are called to be agents of that connection. Especially in these times, we need to be intentional about nurturing our relationships with our loved ones as well as connecting to those who are vulnerable to isolation.
If you are suffering from feelings of isolation or depression, please reach out. You have a community that loves and cares for you. When your Vineyard Leader reaches out to you, please take the time to connect and thank them for their ministry of community care. And finally repeat after me: 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.