Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 8:31-39 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Driving to and from Utah over the recent the holiday weekend, Kiefer and I took turns choosing podcasts. My choice, easy, Bridgetown Church’s audio podcast. Kiefer’s on the other hand was Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History. I have to admit it was fascinating! We listened to at least four podcasts on the final stretch home, two of them having to do with legal cases in the south during the ’50s. The two podcasts were titled, “State v. Johnson—Nobody Was Interested in Justice.” and “Mr. Hollowell Didn’t Like That—Arrested, Arraigned, Indicted, Tried, Convicted, and Sentenced to Die in the Electric Chair in 24 Hours.”
Gladwell conducted an interview with Vernon Jordan, who was Donald Hollowell’s mentee. (Hollowell was an influential civil rights attorney.) He shares stories of the cases they took on and the treatment they received. It was horrific to hear how the justice system was so corrupted by racism. Jordan recalls that one judge wouldn’t even look at Hollowell when he got up to speak. He turned around in his chair because he could not bear to give respect to someone who was not white. Hollowell simply continued to speak calmly and present his point.
The stories were painful to hear. Black men accused of rape and murder and denied a fair trial. Nobody interested in justice. When I read this line that Paul wrote, it shakes me up a tad: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33 ESV). Can you imagine hanging onto those words when you are sentenced to die in the electric chair in less than 24 hours? Who can condemn me? God is my judge? It probably doesn’t feel that way.
Although very few of us have been on trial or been denied justice by the legal system in this kind of dramatic way, there are many moments in life where you might feel that charges are being brought against you or that you are being condemned. But Paul is not focusing on little moments of condemnation; he is focusing on cosmic condemnation. (Not to say that God doesn’t care about the little moments.) It’s like worrying about what flavor of Clif Bar you are going to eat when there’s a whole dinner prepared for you in the next room. God cares about our day-to-day lives, but He also cares about our eternal lives.
I find myself frustrated beyond belief at hearing stories like State v. Johnson. If it’s God who justifies, how could a racist jury and judge sentence a man to death? In these moments, I have to zoom out and recognize the even bigger picture. Death as we experience it is different from how God sees it. There can still be justice for a man who received no justice during his life on earth.
You might feel like you have charges against you today, or that you are being treated unjustly. I encourage you to zoom out and hear Paul’s words: “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the One Who died—more than that, He was the One Who was raised—Who is at the right hand of God, Who is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34 ESV). Who better to have in your courtroom than Jesus?
Recalibrate: In what ways are you tempted to apply Paul’s words to “little” situations that will leave you frustrated rather than seeing the big picture?
Respond: Ask God for forgiveness for the times you have condemned others.
Research: Listen to one or both of the podcasts from Revisionist History.
Remember: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, 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” (Romans 8:38-39, ESV).
Jessyka Albert has been associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church since 2016. She grew up in Washington State, graduated from Union College, and is engaged to Kiefer Dooley, Rocky Mountain Conference associate youth director. Jessyka is passionate about children’s, youth, and young adult ministry.
Place a variety of textured objects on the floor for your child to experience. A woolly sweater, a new scratchy pot scrubber, a wooden spoon, some Play-Doh, and a clean paint brush. Encourage your little one to experience each texture. While they may put one object down quickly, they may love to hold onto another one for a long time. No matter what they choose to play with and no matter how long they play with it, your love for them stays the same. They are a part of you. In Jesus’ name, we are a part of God's family, and His love for us is unchanging.
Try watching a game that has people commentating. Commentating is when a person watching talks about the players playing the game. The person talking is called a commentator. How do the commentators talk about the players? Notice how they talk when there is a good play and when there is a bad play. How do you think you would feel if you were playing and you could hear what the commentators were saying? Verse 34 asks us who is the one who condemns. Paul answers by saying, "No one." When you feel like you can't get anything right, know that Jesus—the best live love player of all time—is at the right hand of God standing up for you.
Recently, my friend Estephania had a baby boy. My mom and I visited her and her husband about a month after he was born. My jaw dropped when she told me her daily routine now that she is the mother of a newborn. She shared how she had to feed him every couple of hours and that she would feed him for almost an hour at a time. She told me how he was still not sleeping through the night, so when he was hungry he would wake her up, no matter the hour. They were both telling me how tired they felt! And then, Estephania’s face softened. She looked at the baby’s face, smiled, and said, “It’s so worth it.” There they were, two tired parents staring lovingly at their baby boy. Since that day in May, every time my mother asks me to do something for her, I say, “Yes, for all those times I was a newborn and you took care of me and I didn’t realize it.” She always laughs and says it was a joy to do so. Understanding how my mom took care me of me, even more when I didn’t realize it, seems to make it more special. When the Bible talks about God interceding for us, that means God is defending us, even when we probably don’t deserve it. Now that you know this, how will your actions change? Thank God for the ways He’s interceding for you today.