Louis Zamperini knew how to take a beating. Read the book or watch the movie “Unbroken,” and you’ll see what resolve looks like: getting “spiked” by a fellow racer only makes it run faster; it refuses to give up on a life raft in the middle of endless blue; it locks eyes with its torturer in a prison camp. It’s an inspiring sight when you see someone who’s beaten, but not broken.
But that’s not you. That’s not the Christian life. There’s quite a difference between Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4 and what he shares with us in Romans 8:31-39. We don’t “survive” hardship or “endure” troubles. We have victory upon victory in the middle of them. We’re not simply unbroken in our troubles; we’re triumphant.
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-- more than that, who was raised to life-- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:31-39
There is a lot of great stuff that the Holy Spirit has loaded into these verses. Here are a few gems:
Verse 35: The word for “separate” in the Greek is the same word used for “divorce.” As a husband to his wife, God has pledged his love to us. No one – not even our unfaithfulness – will end that relationship.
Verse 35: “hardship” is a strong picture word in the original Greek. It paints a picture that is horribly uncomfortable for the claustrophobic – and something all too familiar for those who know what ongoing problems and pressures feel like.
Verse 38ff: the nouns in this section do not have definite articles, adding more emphasis to the very nature of the words.
Our congregation uses the Imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday. There is a connection between this Epistle text and that rite. In verse 36, we find a reminder that we are indeed marked for death: the ashes bear witness to that fact. But verse 39 reminds us that we have been marked for life by Christ Jesus: the sign of the cross bears witness to that.
In all of these verses one thought remains prevalent – we are unbroken in Christ Jesus! More than that, we are victorious in Christ Jesus!