July 26, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Romans 8:31-39 (NRSV)
What then are we to say about these things? 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.
Paul lays out a picture in Romans 6-8, not of good people to whom bad things never happen, but of redeemed people on whose behalf Christ intercedes.
I knew when I saw the Epistle reading assigned for this coming Sunday that I had written about Romans 8 before. (As you know, right now Life for Leaders is not issuing weekend devotionals, but for the time being, I will continue to write about the Scriptures for the weekend approaching instead of the one just passed.) Turns out I had done so twice—in July 2020 and May 2021, both times in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic and national turmoil.
Romans 8 is a good passage to contemplate in times of turmoil. It may be one of the greatest passages in all of Scripture for that purpose. Paul has been explaining in Romans 6 and 7 that we cannot save ourselves. (That is a very short paraphrase of Romans 6 and 7, but it is his essential point.) This would put us in a hopeless spot—after all, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)—were it not for the great truth that there is One who can save us.
Since I didn’t print all of this coming Sunday’s lectionary passage (really, you should go read the whole chapter), you may wonder what the “these things” are to which Paul refers in Romans 8:31. As my earlier devotions explored, they are the things that make us groan and suffer, the things that seem to condemn us, the things that supposedly work together for good although we cannot sometimes in the moment see how. Paul lays out a picture in Romans 6-8, not of good people to whom bad things never happen, but of redeemed people on whose behalf Christ intercedes.
I think that’s a very good thing to keep in mind when contemplating this passage. Even though Paul cautions against it—and Jesus does too in the Gospels—it’s easy for us to think that we have gotten wherever we have gotten under our own power and that Jesus won’t succeed unless we stick up for him.
We are to witness to the power of Christ working in our lives, for sure, but we should do so always knowing that Jesus is perfectly able to defend himself (and us). “If God is for us, who can be against us?” does not mean that we always win in the reckoning of this world. It is only in him that we are justified, it is only in him that we are freed, and it is on his love, not our careful plans and political and social strategizing, that our ability to be more than conquerors depends.
What things are making you groan?
How is Christ interceding on your behalf?
Even if you know other portions of George Frideric Handel’s great Messiah, you may not know the beautiful aria from its concluding section “If God Be For Us,” as it’s not always performed. Listen to this performance and reread Romans 8, contemplating Christ’s great love for you.
Lord, I trust not in myself, but in you. Amen.
Banner image by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: God Is on Your Side.
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Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.
Click here to view Jennifer’s profile.