Ask any Christian: “Do you love God?” The obvious answer will be: “Yes!” But what does it REALLY mean to ‘love’ God? Is it by attending church regularly? Giving offerings? Or going to missions? James 1:12 will answer that for us today.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…For I am sure 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”—Romans 8:35,38-39
In my first years of becoming born-again, I always thought that in the above verses, the apostle Paul was saying that nothing can separate God from His love for us. It makes sense, right? Being almighty, nothing can prevent God from loving us, not even the tribulation, distress, or famine that we may face. Recently, I came to realize that Paul was actually making a bold statement by saying that nothing can separate us from loving God! How can a human being say such a thing? To err is human, so there can be times that we fail to love God due to tremendous hardships. King Solomon even advised not to make such bold statements unwisely, “be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few” (Eccl5:1). So, was Paul just carelessly writing these words or did he seriously mean them? How can a human being commit to love God no matter what?
To understand Paul’s feelings, I want to take us back to Luke 7:36-50. In this story, a sinful woman entered a Pharisee’s house where Jesus was eating. She wet Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. She was so overwhelmed that she kissed and anointed the feet. To the rest of the people in the room, they despised the lady because she was a sinner and thought she wasted that ointment. Towards the end of the story, Jesus said to the Pharisee, “therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” This statement is key to helps us get the picture. Before becoming born-again, Paul persecuted, imprisoned, and approved the deaths of many Christians. When the Lord forgave his numerous sins, Paul just couldn’t overlook this. I mean this is a former persecutor and murderer who is now completely justified and adopted as God’s son, has the Holy Spirit in Him, performs miracles, preaches the Word, and Jesus now intercedes for him! No wonder then, Paul had the audacity to say that nothing can separate him from the love of Christ! Because God forgave him much, he in turn loved much.
The reason we complain, demand things from, or even refuse to suffer for God is because we think He owes us. According to us, God should be the One grateful due to the numerous sacrifices and services we do for His sake. We deserve good things and God should give us what we ask for. I mean some of us weren’t murderers or persecutors prior to our faith in Christ, hence we believe God didn’t have to forgive us of many sins. It’s no surprise then we love God little. Paul and the sinful woman, on the contrary, understood that they were nothing without God and His grace; therefore, the least they could do was to show their gratitude by serving God and submitting to His leadership.
Only when we come face to face with the gravity of our sins that we can appreciate better our Heavenly Father. Only then, we can accept whatever will He has for our lives and say that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, not tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, death, life, angels, rulers, things present or things to come, powers, height or depth, or anything else in all creation.