The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.
I just got back from a prayer walk around the condo complex that I live in. It's not really that spectacular, mostly just a big parking lot that encircles a bunch of buildings from the 70's. But somehow just being outside, seeing the sky, the moon, a tree over there...it makes me feel closer to God. God's creation lifts my gaze from my everyday problems to the bigger reality that we live in.
Even so, the above Scripture reminds us that our world is only an image of its former glory. It's still beautiful. It still proclaims God's glory quite effectively. But it's broken. It's not what it once was. It has been marred by sin and it groans in eager anticipation of the day when it will be restored to its former glory. Animals weren't meant to attack and kill humans. The natural elements were not meant to create hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and earthquakes that all destroy the earth and kill humans. This world was built to house mankind, not destroy us. So it groans...and it waits for the day when it will be set free from the bonds of sin.
So too we groan for we have also been subjected to futility. Like our world we are marred, just a shadow of what God intended us to be. All of us see these marring effects on our lives. Some of these imperfections are shallow vanities but some are legitimate marks of sin. These legitimate marks of sin are what Paul is talking about. Some of us wear these marks more obviously than others, but all of us have physical, emotional, mental, and moral deformities because of the Fall. This is why Jesus performed so many miracles that involved health. When he gave a blind man his sight or healed a lame man, He was removing the chains of sin from their physical bodies just as sure as he was removing spiritual chains when He cast out demons. So we also groan for the redemption of our bodies. This is the great hope of the Christian faith: to be resurrected and given a body like Christ's so you can live in the Kingdom of God and see Him face-to-face.
But for now we (and the world) continue to live marred by sin. That's why we spend a lot of our time groaning. There is an innate sense that we all have that the world shouldn't be this way. It's not fair. It's not right. In fact, something is terribly wrong. Every time we experience this feeling we groan and look forward to the day when the world won't be this way anymore...the day when our bodies won't be this way anymore. One day "in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet...the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed" (I Cor. 15:52). Until then we'll continue groaning and I'll continue taking prayer walks around an old parking lot searching for remnants of God's beauty in His creation.
For further reading this week…
- I Corinthians 15: Check out this entire chapter devoted to how important the
resurrection is for Christians.
- Philippians 3:20-21: A body like His.
- Luke 7:18-23: When John the Baptist doubts see how Jesus convinces him that He
is the one who is ushering in God's Kingdom on earth.