Monday, June 5, 2017
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8:18-23(NLT)
As an apostle Paul was asked a lot of questions about God’s purposes. People who suffered cruelty, disease, poverty and a host of other human ills wanted to know why life had to be so hard. Paul’s letter to the Roman church contains much of Paul’s systematic theology, and therein we find many of the answers to life’s tough questions.
As a pastor, I have also been asked a lot of questions; one of the toughest ones is about how it can be fair that we are born into a sinful world with a sinful nature that gets us in trouble; after all, we didn’t ask for that!
There is a single phrase here in Paul’s Roman treatise on God’s design for all creation, which may give us tools to unlock that question’s mystery: Against its will.
When God finished creating everything on the sixth day he looked around and proclaimed that it was all very good. That means there wasn’t anything wrong with what He had created; no pain, no anger, no death, and nothing over which we would have to shed tears. We (the human race) were given the keys to a perfect existence! The phrase against its will is Paul’s way of describing how the good creation of God became subject to the curse which made life really difficult – full of death and decay. To this moment the entire creation groans waiting for the day God will restore Eden.
The simple straight line drawn from this to our question about being born into this mess of a world is that, just as the earth suffered because of the curse brought on by Adam and Eve’s rebellion, we too are born into an existence soiled by sin. We suffer living in a world catastrophized by our ancestors; we didn’t ask for it, but, then neither did the children who will be born in the next century ask to live in a world polluted and left to disintegrate by our generation. The lone self-righteousness caveat here is that, had we been first, we would have been first in sin just as certainly as the first couple. Whether Adam and Eve are two actual people or just representative figureheads to describe all of humanity, every one of us is born/created in innocence, but we choose to sin.
The underlying lesson learned about the sin of our ancestors and this generation, and the generation to come is that God did not create it or its resultant decay; we humans are the ones who all participate and pass it on to infect the next generation.
Paul ended this passage with reference to the eager anticipation of being released from the groaning of our sin and suffering. This is the blessed hope of people who live under the grace and mercy of a forgiving God.
To claim innocence, to say I didn’t ask to be born, is to deny all evidence that you are human. To place yourself at the foot of the cross, a convicted felon of sin is to place yourself in the merciful hand of Father God.