Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. —Romans 8:35-37
Separation is a reality we confront everyday. It can be as simple as a parent going to work for the day. It can be as panic-filled as a lost child at the mall. And it can be as painful as the separation of death.
For those who trust Christ, regardless of what is going on in the world around us, we can be confident we will never be separated from the love of Christ. And that love is not just a fuzzy emotion. It is love in action. Christ’s love is demonstrated through the incomparable sacrifice of His own death on the cross. The comfort of Christ’s love is expressed by God’s rich grace when He gave up His Son (vv. 31-32). It is reflected in the justifying work of Christ through His death, resurrection, and ongoing intercession on behalf of His people (vv. 33-34). And here in verse 35, Paul reminds us that nothing can separate us from that powerful, remarkable love of Christ.
This isn’t happy talk. Paul lists real threats: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword. All but that final threat is included in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians as suffering he himself encountered (2 Corinthians 11:26-27; 12:10). Paul knew suffering but he also knew Christ’s love was greater.
In the next verse, Paul quotes Psalm 44:22 to illustrate that, for God’s people, we can be certain of Christ’s love, but we can also be certain we will face troubles. This verse is a plea for God’s help in a time of distress. After listing sufferings he has experienced, Paul reminds the believers that when we suffer we are not alone. Suffering is the norm for God’s people. We are not alone. In the midst of certain suffering in a broken world, we can take comfort in the encouragement of Christ, “take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
But suffering is not the end. Verse 37 contains powerful encouragement. Christians won’t see their troubles overwhelmed, they will be “more than conquerors.” Perhaps there’s a sense here that, even in the midst of suffering, God is working for our good (Romans 8:28). And yet, this triumphant identity is no cause for boasting. We are more than conquerors “through him who loved us.” The confidence that we will ultimately overcome is not grounded in who we are but who God is.
We come to these verses at a particular moment in human history. The world is facing a health crisis beyond anything many of us have ever seen or contemplated. Public health professionals recommend separation as an imperative to protect the vulnerable. Thousands of families and communities are experiencing the painful separation of death as their loved ones succumb to Covid-19.
While we must confront this crisis prayerfully and lovingly, we cannot and must not confront it fearfully. Before Covid-19, those who trust Christ had a certain hope. Before Covid-19, we also faced certain troubles in a broken world. And as we face Covid-19, we have a Savior who demonstrated His love for us on the cross. We have a Savior who defeated death and rose again. And we have a Savior who continues to intercede on our behalf. Even as we face this crisis, nothing can separate us from His love.
What are some of the things you are looking to in 2020 as the hills surrounding you?
Are these things causes for hope or fear?
How can you take those things and entrust them – with joy or relief – to God?
How does God being “the maker of heaven and earth” provide particular encouragement to you today?