Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 23 2013 - Romans 8:9-25 – A groaning creation

There is so much in our world that is beautiful and good and that prompts our praise of God who created it all. But there is also much in our world that is twisted and ugly; much that is destructive and the source of terrible pain; much that is not as it should be and not as it was designed to be; much that cries out to be put right.

In a rather neglected section in the middle of Romans 8, Paul speaks about the way in which our creation has been made subject to vanity and frustration. Creation itself is groaning and is in pain and is longing for the day when it will be liberated from frustration and decay.

Those who have come to trust in the risen Saviour have already begun to experience something of the life of the new creation. Through the Spirit at work within us and among us, we have been given a foretaste of the life of the age to come. We long for the day when that new creation will be complete, for the day of resurrection when we will be made perfectly like the risen Lord Jesus.

And this hope is not self-centred and individualistic; it embraces the whole of creation. Christians, of all people, ought to feel most keenly the pain of our fractured world. We feel the pain of its injustice, brokenness, decay and death. We feel that pain with a real sympathy as those who suffer along with a suffering creation. Above all, we know that Jesus experienced the reality of a broken creation and gave ultimate expression to its pain in his cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God does not stand far off and silent in the face of his broken and suffering world. In Jesus he has come to us and has tasted its brokenness and pain. Creation’s suffering has broken the heart of God.

But there is more than sympathy. Jesus’ death is not God’s final word. We hope for a new creation with a hope that is not wishful thinking but which is guaranteed by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. We know that there is a day coming when our world will be transformed; a day when there will be no more injustice, pain or death and when God himself will wipe away the tear from every eye. Can you imagine the beauty and wonder of that new creation?

In this meantime, we groan along with a groaning creation. But just as God has not abandoned his world, neither do we look to escape from earth to heaven. Rather, we give ourselves to pray for the transformation of our world, prayer prompted by the Spirit who also groans within us. And we give ourselves to work for the transformation of our world even as we seek to grow personally in likeness to Christ. Future hope shapes present action.

John Stott argued that the preacher needs always to have the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. The message of Scripture is not abstract theology; it speaks into and addresses the world we live in day-by-day. Its message is both one of judgment and of hope, of a world that must pass away and of a world that must be made new.

Creator God, thank you that your heart beats with love for the world that you have made and that your heart is broken by its brokenness. By your Spirit make my heart beat with your heart. Make me sensitive to the tragedy and pain of a broken world that I may weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. Fill me with holy anger and impatience at the injustice of this world and the evil that is done by many. Set me praying and working for a world made new. Help me to bring the hope of resurrection and of new creation to those living in despair.

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Peter Misselbrook