If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
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.
Psalm 109:21-22, 26-27, 30-31
But you, O Lord my Lord,
act on my behalf for your name’s sake;
because your steadfast love is good, deliver me.
For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is pierced within me.
Help me, O Lord my God!
Save me according to your steadfast love.
Let them know that this is your hand;
you, O Lord, have done it.
With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord;
I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save them from those who would condemn them to death.
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
St. Paul asks in his letter to the Romans: “If God is for us, who is against us?” Through his death on the Cross and his rising on the third day, Christ has demonstrated that all the powers of hell and death were not powerful enough to hold him. By becoming human, God showed us that he sympathizes with us in the weakness of our humanity, rather than judges us for our shortcomings. By healing and casting out demons, he demonstrates his care and his desire for our lives to not be plagued by sin and death, but restored to blessedness and happiness in his grace. Through all of the things we can be afraid of in this life, Jesus has revealed to us how much more powerful he is than these. He even scoffs at Herod’s threat against his life, pointing out how little Herod understands who he is dealing with. Jesus was never on the run to flee from death, but moving steadily towards the place of his arrest, his passion, and his crucifixion. He never runs away, but rather runs forward to show us how he loves us.
Then what can separate us from the love of God? If nothing in this physical world can accomplish it, nor any power of the devil, then how can people be cut off from his grace and separate from his love? Sadly, we all know that we do it to ourselves. Because of the great love of God, he knows that true love is freedom, so he has given us the power to choose him or reject him. The devil has no power over us that we do not allow him to have. So he suggests things to our minds: lies and accusations against God and against ourselves. The greatest lie the devil can tell us is that we are unlovable. He sends us this message through guilt over our sins, shaming us into believing we have truly done it now, broken our bond with God and now we are unworthy of God’s forgiveness. He tells us this lie through other broken people who have hurt us, rejected us, shamed us, and broken our hearts. When we feel the pain of the rejection of human love, it is hard to imagine that God loves us instead. And the devil makes us feel unlovable through trials, through sickness and loss, causing us to become discouraged, as though God has no desire to enter our lives or help us through our pain.
But the devil has no power that we do not give him. It is not arrogant to say that we are lovable, but it is strangely prideful to believe the greatest falsehood and to think we could ever be capable of a sin that God can’t forgive. If the powers of sin and death could not destroy God through death on the Cross, then your sins are not unforgivable. Though human beings may have hurt you, or rejected you, or told you that you were worthless, God still counts the hairs of your head and remains closer to you than your next breath. And even if you have been discouraged through pain and have stopped believing that God still cares about you, God still would have walked to Jerusalem to be crucified even if you were the only one to be saved by it. So we can have confidence in this. Our confidence does not come from inside ourselves, through believing in ourselves, but our confidence comes from God, recognizing how great his care is for us. So we trust that he, not only can forgive and heal and love us, but that he will do these things. We can walk through this life, through the trials, through the rejections, through the pain, and through the grief over our sin, knowing that God does not flee to save himself, but runs into that pain, into our losses, into our grief to save us.