Summary: God's love knows no bounds. It is capable of touching every life and every situation.
Romans 5:1-11 "Boundless Love"
What do you do after you have been set free? I heard a story several times about how the circus trains elephants to stay in captivity. I do not know if the story is true or not. As I understand the elephant trainers begin when the elephant is young. They wrap a chain around his leg and attach it to a peg driven in the ground. At such a young age, the elephant can't escape. The elephant always has the chain wrapped around his foot. When the elephant is older and could easily rip the peg out of the ground the trainers wrap the chain around his leg and don't even bother to attach it to a stake. The elephant still thinks its bound even though it is free.
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for twenty-seven years in a horrid South African jail. He was treated cruelly by the jailers. When Mandela was released from prison, he led his country in a rebellion against apartheid, established a new government and served as its president.
Once we are free there are many directions we can go. Paul writes to the Romans and instructs them on how they can now live.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul declares that we are free. We have been set free by God's love. For the first five chapters of his letter to the Romans, Paul has been laying the argument that we have been justified--placed in a right relationship with God. This justification is a free gift from God. We have done nothing to obtain it.
Now that we have been justified and set free Paul proclaims in verse one that we have peace with God. This is not simply the cessation of conflict with we no longer rebelling against God and and God rightfully judging us. This peace is "shalom" peace; it is a wholistic peace. The peace that we now have enables us to live in a vibrant, dynamic relationship God.
The peace that we now enjoy come from Jesus Christ--through his life, death and resurrection. We now have access to God's grace (2) and we have hope in sharing the glory of God. In other words, we can have a close relationship with God. What is amazing is that we take this relationship with God for granted. Many of us are satisfied with being an acquaintance rather than a close friend.
GROWTH THROUGH TRIALS
Our freedom gives us the ability to overcome trial and boldly face hardships.
One of the most fundamental questions that is asked is "Why do bad things happen to good people." Usually we assume that God is to blame for the bad things that happen. This assumption and this question has been put to rest because we now have peace with God; we have been recipients of God's love.
Life has its challenges. There are plenty of times to celebrate the good times and God's blessings, but we all encounter times of trials and tribulations. Knowing that we have peace with God; that God is not the cause of our pain we can rest in God's love.
Focusing on God's love enables us to open our lives up to the movement of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can take the situations that we encounter and use them to produce endurance, character and hope. Such changes in our lives are not necessarily pain free. But, when we focus on God's love and when we acknowledge that we are in the palm of God's hand our fear is nullified and our hope remains.
We are free to hope.
CELEBRATION IN HOPE
In verse six, Paul asserts that God acted in love at the right time, even though we were still enemies. If God acted in love toward us when we were still rebelling against God, then we can't even imagine what God's love will look like in the days ahead.
There are time when we fear the future. Certainly the people to whom Paul was writing had a very uncertain future. But Paul reminds them and us that we have hope. The situation may not be resolved in the way that we would want. We will be able to experience God's love, be embraced by God's love and be strengthen by God's love. We will continue to be set free by God's love.
God's boundless love set us free. Our freedom does not assure us that we will have trouble free lives. It does open the door for us to experience the abundant life that is ours because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.