creation is groaning

“I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters. Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:18-25 CEB)

What an arresting phrase!

“… the whole creation is groaning …” (vs.22)

Though the theology of this passage is more than just a word about ecology, the ecology of it is theology, too. Is there a passage more clear in all of the New Testament than this one as to how Christians should view nature?

The prevailing view among humankind seems to be that creation/nature is simply “stuff” that God made to support human life and so humankind can do whatever they will with it. Consequently, “Mother Nature” has been raped. Vast forests have been denuded. Oceans have been ravished. Chemicals of all kinds, new ones all the time being formed, pollute her.

However, a Spirit-inspired apostle named Paul laid out a radically different vision for us to capture. Here he lays out for all Christians of all time a brief “theology of ecology.” Yes, Paul was “green” a very long time before “green” was “cool.”

According to Paul, creation is something much, much more than “stuff,” mere lesser beings or inanimate objects useful only for humankind’s sustenance and distraction. Rather, all creation that is other than humankind is something meaningful, even personal – indeed, “alive” – to God. For creation acts much as humans do. It “waits.” It does so with “eager expectation.” It is “frustrated.” It knows how to “groan” – and does so, now. Right now it is held “in bondage.” Today it yearns to be “liberated” from the bondage in which we have placed it because of our sins. And in light of all this, the promise from God’s Spirit to all of creation is no less remarkable, parallel in fact, to the promise given to us as Christians, redeemed humankind:

“… the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children.” (vs.21)

Take the time to read and re-read that sentence several times. Mull it over and ask yourself some questions. Questions like:

  • What would happen to us, and to nature, if we suddenly looked at nature consistently through these eyes?
  • How would we treat this planet differently if we became as “green” as God’s Spirit?
  • In light of what God’s Spirit says about the creation, how far will this word from him truly change my own habits and ways, behavior and buying, doing and voting, with respect to all of creation, not just people?
  • When will I start respecting creation the way God respects it, and so, respect him?

I don’t know about you, but I need to pray.

Father God, you sustain me and refresh me through all of your creation. So may the way I interact with all of your creation glorify you! For as surely as not even a single sparrow passes away without your notice nor does a single, hidden flower bloom without your will, I know you are concerned about my dealings with them. Forgive me of my often thoughtless, and even callous, indifference of this matter that means much to you. As I yearn for your Spirit to hear and convey the groans of my spirit to you, may I not cause any part of your creation to groan needlessly. In the name of him who frees all you have made from all that shackles – even me – I pray. Amen.