Romans chapter 8
I have a bone to pick with whoever chose the second reading for the 18th Sunday of the year. The text is from Romans chapter 8. It is Paul at his lyrical best, trying hard to find words worthy of the unfailing love that Christ has for each one of us. He tells us that this is a love so constant as to make it impossible for us to be separated from Him.
Like it or not, no matter what we do or have done to us, Jesus will never stop loving us. His love for the saint is no more intense than His love for the sinner. And why not? Since in every case, the saint and the sinner are one and the same person.
This, then, is a reading from which we can all draw consolation. So what is my beef? I object to the editor having begun the reading with verse 35 when through verse 34 we share the revelation that drove Paul to his joyful conclusion.
In that verse Paul says four things about Jesus. “He died ...He rose again ...He is at the right hand of God ...and from there He pleads for us.” Note that last one, he pleads, intercedes for us.
The earliest Christian creed we have states: “He was crucified, died and was buried. On the third day He rose again and is now seated at the right hand of God”, and note this, “from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.” But Paul does not say that. Rather Paul wrote: “From there He will intercede for us …He will plead our case.”
And so Paul’s insight is that we should not think of Christ in terms of a condemning judge. Sure, Our Lord has every right to judge and to condemn but Paul insists that He is, in fact, not there to prosecute but rather to plead for us, just as He died for us.
“Who,” asks Paul, “will pass sentence against us, when Jesus Christ who died and is risen again and sits at the right hand of God, is pleading for us?” It is with this rhetorical question resounding his consciousness that he goes on, as we have seen, to insist that there is, therefore, nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ.