“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
Whenever I hear that verse quoted by Christians in a receiving line at a funeral home, I cringe. I don’t know if those who say it, actually believe those words will be a comfort to a grieving person, or they just don’t know anything else Christian – to say.
I believe the problem comes from a conventional understanding that Romans 8:28 teaches that no matter what happens to a Christian, God will always turn it into something good for them. While that is often true – I don’t believe it’s always true. Here’s what I believe that verse could also mean. God has a plan for his kingdom on earth and his kingdom in heaven. And God is working all things together for the good of all those who love him. By “all those who love him,” God could be referring to all believers, not just the person to whom some tragedy happened.
For instance, in the late 50’s, five young missionaries were killed in the jungles of Ecuador, by Auca Indians. Things didn’t necessarily work out for their good. (Unless you count the fact that they are now with Jesus.) But as a result of their death, over the next 20-30 years hundreds of Auca Indians became believers. In fact, the very man who killed one of the missionaries, Nate Saint, became a Christian and an elder, and later baptized Nate’s son!
God worked all things (even the death of five men, husbands and fathers) for the good of his kingdom.
We Christians need to take a longer view of history. We don’t need to believe that every tragedy will result in good things for every person they happen to. We only need to believe by faith, that God has a plan to work all things together for the good of his church – his people. I believe that is the right understanding of Romans 8:23. It’s both a prediction and a promise for the Church. And the gates of Hell will not stand against it.
How following Jesus works in real life.
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