Facing the Worst First

We come now to an astonishing passage following the passage we have been studying, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” The passage is this, “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. 8:38–39). Here Paul exhausts all the categories of possibility of separating us from “the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing is left out. To try to expound it is to attempt to paint the lily and to retouch the colors of the sunset.

One can try to tell the untellable and to express the inexpressible. Here goes! In four pairs of opposites Paul sweeps the horizon of any possibility of separating us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

First, death and life—he takes death first, for people usually think of death as the greatest power to separate. It is called “the great divide”—dividing everything and everybody. This is characteristic of the Christian faith—it presents the worst first. Someone has said: “Raise any issue in its most difficult aspect first. Solve it there, and then you can more easily solve it all down the line.” So death, the great divider is faced first. This method of presenting the worst first is not mere chance in this instance—it is a revelation of the Christian method and strategy. The world’s method and strategy is to present everything bargain-counter-foremost. The central confrontation of Christianity is a cross—In hoc signo— by this sign—you conquer. It confronts us with the worst—God’s cross and ours. The sheer audacity of it!


O God, our Father, we are astonished at Thy audacity—putting the cross before us straight off and asking us for acceptance—acceptance as the central thing in Thee and in us. We love Thee for putting the worst first. All else is glory. Amen.


Today I shall conquer the worst, and then it will be easy to mow down the lesser things.

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

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