ACCEPTING GOD'S LOVE
“If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, 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.” (Rom 8: 31b-39)
It’s hard, for many of us, to accept these words without saying, “Yes, BUT…” We tend not to accept God’s unconditional love for us, even though He has demonstrated it so many times, - and particularly when He sent His Son to us, “while we were still sinners” (Rom 5: 8). But we ourselves do not love ourselves enough, to believe that this kind of unconditional, divine love for us, “still sinners,” is even possible. As Thomas Merton observed, “The reason many people don’t believe in God is that they don’t believe that even a god could love them.” We tend to think, “if” or “when” I do this or that, – like, when I begin to pray enough, and fast enough, and get my act together, – then, perhaps, God will love me and hear me.
But let me not project the limitations of our own, human “love,” with its oft-nonsensical demands and defeats, onto God. “We are more than conquerors,” the Apostle reminds me, in the whole business of love, not through our own, limited capacity to love, but “through him who loved us.” Let me not fight God’s love for me today, however and wherever I am, as I re-connect with Him in heartfelt prayer, and proceed to love myself and others humbly, warts and all, as He does. In practical terms, this means letting go of self-centered demands and expectations of myself and others, doing the next right thing, simply and lightly. And let me let myself “more than conquer,” in Him, all that blocks me from the simplicity and clarity of love.