Right now, many are asking “why.” Why is this happening to our world? Why is it being handled a certain way? Why are some of us losing jobs? Why are people so divided over this? It’s a confusing time to be a follower of Jesus, admittedly. Our world is undergoing a lot of pressure, and it’s difficult to know how to respond to it.
In Romans, Paul writes to a church facing confusing times. The Roman emperor had forced all of the Jewish people in Rome to leave, and after 5 years they were allowed to return. When Jewish Christians returned, they returned to a church community that was not very Jewish: they didn’t follow the instructions of the Torah like observing the sabbath or being circumcised. There was a lot of disagreement, and Paul is writing to them to help them through this confusing time – to tell them that the good news of Jesus exists to bring them together, not to separate them. In chapter 8, he writes:
Paul’s words feel so applicable right now. We’re in the midst of a crisis in our society, and we’re wondering what to do. The way forward is not entirely clear, and now more than ever it’s easy for us to be divided. To Paul, the good news is that God is working in it all. He’s not absent, but rather He is with us as we get frustrated, ask questions and even as the parts of us come out that we’re not proud of. He’s working through difficult and confusing circumstances, not just in spite of them.
Here’s what he says next:
Paul is reminding the people of God of the love that God has for them, and that there isn’t anything that can separate them from that love. He’s building on the overall theme of this letter to be unified in spite of disagreement, describing the strength of God’s love in order to invite the church to have a strong love for one another.
Paul’s words teach us that though there will be struggle, confusion and division, we are loved by God and can respond to that love by our unity: having a love for one another that reflects God’s perfect love to the world. God is present and with us during this confusing time, and He could actually be using it to teach us to love our neighbors as ourselves, especially the ones that we disagree with.