Romans 8:35 New International Version
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”
Now I know it says who — but the word used here can mean who, which, what. We can read it any way.
Let us first look at the concept of separation. The Greek word used is xorizo which comes from the Greek word xora meaning open, vacated space. Think of a wide, vast field. Xorizo means to separate or withdraw, initially as in a divorce, when the partner vacates the marriage either physically or emotionally.
Paul, the author of Romans, is asking what or who can cause the love of Christ to take a vacation – to leave, divorce, or abandon us?
The word for love here is the Greek word agape. Recall that the Greeks had three words for love– Agape, Eros, and Philia. Agape is the word for a benevolent or charitable love. This is the same word in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son….”
Back to the question at hand, Paul questions 7 potentials things that could separate us.
- Trouble. Greek word thlipsis- meaning pressure, or a narrow space that feels confining. This is internal, mind squeezing pressure.
- Hardship. Greek word stenochoria– meaning a narrow space, but this is more external. This is an outward difficulty or stressor pushing in on us.
- Persecution. Greek word diogmos– meaning literally “The hunt to bring someone down like an animal”. This is being pursued or chased by someone or something that seems out to destroy you.
- Famine. Greek word limos– meaning hunger or scarcity. Don’t just think of food with this, there are other ways we hunger or feel depraved of some essential need.
- Nakedness. Greek word gumnotes. Meaning naked or exposed. Think vulnerable or shame.
- Danger. Greek word kindunos. Meaning danger or peril.
- Sword. Greek word machaira. Meaning sword, but would represent death or physical pain or crisis.
This list covers quite a bit. I know there are times I have let the worries in my mind, or the actual stressors I was facing, cloud my awareness of Christ’s love. There have been times when my hunger of something I felt scarce, or my shame of some past decision blinded me to my value in Christ.
The truth though is that none of those things can actually take away Christ’s love. He will never leave us, and nothing in all that exists can take his love away.
Paul later answers this question eloquently a few verses later. Romans 8:38-39 says,
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”