In the last 24 hours I’ve read Romans 8:38-39 three times before reading it in this setting. First as I commended an old friend and brother in Christ to God just before he died in hospital. Second and third at funerals today – in one case where I knew some of the bereaved family a little, in the second at the funeral of a lovely old church member now reunited with his beloved wife (whose funeral I took a couple of years ago).
In the church’s funeral service, we start with a series of sentences from Scripture as we enter church or chapel, and I always save these words for last, as they seem to carry such strength in the face even of death.
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)
They come at the climax of Paul’s explosion of gratitude for God’s love, and his awareness of the life of God within him as he prays.
Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ. Nothing. We may not always be able to feel that love, but that does not stop God from loving, any more than a dark cloud under which we are in shade stops the sun from shining. Nothing.
Paul then goes off into what is often read as an interlude with the start of chapter 9, reflecting on the place of Israel in God’s continuing purposes. In fact, I read this today as a continuation of his great leap of interpretation over being Abraham’s children – for the promise of God’s loving kindness to us is founded upon our being included in the story of Israel.
That’s the evidence for God’s faithfulness, and the grounds of the promise of his love from which, just in case you’ve forgotten, nothing can separate us.
Even if we’ve had enough of death for one day.