Rom 8:35-39Who 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.
At the end of 56 St Paul spent three months in Corinth (Acts 20:2-3), before starting his final trip to Jerusalem in the beginning of 57. Paul is facing some huge difficulties: he is dealing with serious conflict between Jews who followed Jesus and Christians of Gentile background. The Jews were expelled from Rome by order of the emperor Claudius in about A.D. 49, and although allowed to return were the recipients of prejudice by Gentile Christians. In addition to this Paul has received a death threat (Acts 20:3), and knows that his time in Jerusalem will not be welcomed by his fellow Pharisees. So when he refers to “hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword”, he speaks from personal experience.
There are many who seem to promise that following Jesus will remove all difficulty from our lives. Many expect that following Jesus will result in “wealth, health and happiness”.. This certainly is not the experience of Paul. Instead, Paul promises that the love of God will accompany us through hardship – and not help us to avoid it! The invitation for each succeeding generation of Jesus-follower, is to discover that hardship is not a sign that we are separated from God. As we face the struggles of this new year, let us be reminded that no person, and no hardship, “will be able to separate us from the love of God”.