For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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 8:38,39).
We live our life dodging threats. Disease threatens our heart. Rumors threaten our reputation. An IED can threaten our very life. It seems we live in the spiderweb of either/or. Either one bad thing will happen to us, or another will.
So, it should bring a flood of relief to learn that, when it comes to the most critical part of our life, God declares the threat possibilities to be neither/nor. Threats poise to separate us from something good—maybe even something essential to life. Our ability to avoid or overcome threats is limited. Our approach to survival may be expressed in the saying, “Improvise, adapt, and overcome!” That’s good guidance. But sometimes we cannot improvise or adapt.
Sometimes we cannot overcome. Sometimes we find ourselves at the mercy of forces over which we have no control. That’s when we want to turn to the all-powerful God for help. That, too, is good guidance. But he may know that it is not best for us to be spared a certain pain or failure. At times he allows us to be separated from things that we like, or love, or think we need. That’s difficult to accept. We may then be tempted to doubt his wisdom or love. Yet, such temptation flows from fear rather than fact. The reality is that God’s wisdom and power are perfect—and so is his love for us. The rock-solid truth relayed by the Holy Rock of Ages is that he will not allow any force, no matter what its power, to separate us from his love. It is a case of neither/nor. “Neither death nor life. Neither angels nor demons. Neither the present nor the future. Nor any powers. Neither height nor depth—nor anything else in all creation…”
That’s quite a string of possible threats that he has ruled out. But notice that he is not saying he will separate us from painful happenings. Those possibilities remain. What he does promise is that he will never withdraw his love.
When the soldiers at Combat Outpost Restrepo voiced their dismay in words of black paint on a wall in their pod, they showed they felt they had been separated from his love. Under daily attack, separated from large support forces, they let stand the message: “God hates us all forever!” They may have felt that way, but it was not true. Nor is it true when we feel that God has turned against us. Satan may point to the accusations of our conscience and declare: “You don’t deserve God’s love! You know that deep in your heart. Your sin condemns you. God hates you.” God answers, “That is not true! The proof can be seen in the blood-payment my Son made. ‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’” (Romans 8:1). His judgment stands. Not any power on earth, nor any power in heaven, nor any power in hell can separate us from his love.
It’s always a case of neither/nor.
We join in the words of the old hymn:
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida-Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military