A sermon by Nico Foslett on the last part of Romans 8, which he preached at WBB on July 19, 2022.
Even if we don’t understand all of the passage, one thing I know for sure, God loves us no matter what happens. I have learned this in my life.
Because of the way I was treated in church, it felt like the church doesn’t really believe that God loves people with disabilities. My pastor hurt me at church. He always said “you have to get married, you have to have kids, you have to be successful in your life, you have to be rich”
People say if you have mental health challenges you don’t believe in God, or you don’t believe enough.
It felt like hell. That’s my life, I felt not loved at all by God. Jesus doesn’t want me, Jesus doesn’t want me to experience his love.
But as I started to read the Bible for myself, and finding out for myself who Jesus really was, I started to understand a different message than the ones I was receiving at church. In Romans 8, people assume Paul’s talking about something totally different than what it is actually about. Sometimes they think it means they can ignore people who God loves, because they’re different or not special.
But I disagree. I believe it’s all about love.
The Bible is Love – people assume the bible is one big rule book, but it’s totally not. It’s one big love story to God’s people – that means us! Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God because that is what Jesus is known for – he left the 99 to save the one sheep – that means everybody, even us. People always say if you do this, if you’re in the LGBTQ community, have a disability, mental health challenges, they say you’re not loved by Him.
But “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” I’ve never heard this verse before in the church. I wish I had. I’m thankful that I learned it eventually.
In September 2020, I came across a guy named Adam Weber. His new book had just come out, Love Has A Name, and he is one of the first pastors I ever heard talking about disability with compassion and empathy. And I messaged him right away to say thank you for what you’re talking about.
In November, I had the amazing honour and privilege to meet him on Zoom. The first time he turned on his camera he had the biggest smile and I know in his eyes he already loved me so much as a brother in Christ. And I had the best 20 minute conversation with a pastor that I’ve ever had. I’ve been watching his church online ever since.
In his book, he talks about a guy named Antonio. He had a really bad seizure when he was little and he developed a disability at a really young age. He is 22 right now, but his mind is at 10 or 11 years old. In his book, Adam said: “Antonio is one of my favorite people on the planet. I’m better because of him. Just thinking about him makes me smile. He’s a joy spreader! Our church is better because of him. Oftentimes, I think Antonio is Jesus in our midst. Reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously. Reminding us who and what is really important. The world is better because of him. Antonio has taught me that love adores extravagantly” (31)
It’s the heart of the gospel right there, and the heart of Jesus. That is Jesus to me.
Because of technology, I had the amazing privilege to become friends with Antonio and Adam. They live in South Dakota and because of the internet, I’ve met with them regularly online. Adam and Antonio are two of my favourite people I’ve ever met. They are really dear friends to me.
Adam and Antonio have really, really impacted my life – they’ve showed me God’s love. Their love and God’s love has been really important to me especially when I have been struggling, when it’s easy to doubt anyone loves me. That’s when God’s love matters the most. Paul writes in Romans 9 that he has also experienced sorrow and pain, but God is always with him. And in Psalm 34:18, it says, “The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” The Bible is always reminding us of God’s love!
So it is amazing to hear these verses. I feel like I am Paul today because I have a disability and mental health challenges, but I always proclaim: nothing can separate us from the love of God. I have experienced that love over the last two years.
I don’t need to change in order for God to love me.
In the TV show The Chosen, the multi-season show on the life of Jesus, they portray Matthew with a disability, on the autism spectrum. It made me feel like “ok I am a follower of Jesus.” When Jesus called him out of the tax collector booth, he said to Simon, “Get used to different”. That’s my favourite line because Jesus was different, too. He was always talking about love, so much love. It’s hard to understand God’s love but if we want to be more and more like Him, we have to live like him, and love everybody no matter what. Everybody: disability, LGBTQ community, people with mental health challenges, people who hate you, we have to love them because that’s what Jesus does. He loves like God loves.
When we have God’s love, it can never be taken away. Paul says: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that’s in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Even if we don’t understand all of the passage, one thing I know for sure, God loves us no matter what happens. I have learned this in my life. I hope you know it, too.