God made the world good.
This is the truth declared at the very beginning of the bible. Regardless of how you believe God went about the act of creating Creation, this is something all Christians can agree on. Yet all did not stay good for long; God’s favourite and most treasured creation – Humanity – rebelled against Him, as recorded in chapter 3.
This event is called the Fall; the day when humanity took its future into its own hands. It didn’t take long for things to sour; just a chapter after the Fall, the bible records the first murder – Cain and Abel.
In a cruel fit of irony, Cain murdered Abel over their methods of sacrifice to the God of Love. The relationship between the Creator and the created had become poisoned, that earliest link we had with Him was broken. We, by our ancestor’s choosing – and ours – found ourselves alone.
Whether or not you believe the creation account to be literally true or not, the events themselves still convey a primal, uncomfortable truth; humanity, for as long as anyone can remember, has been bent out of shape; oppression and injustice, cruelty and malice…all of these have followed humanity wherever it has gone.
In fact, were these things not in existence, much of our history would simply not have happened.
But even where the first murder was recorded in the bible – right at the beginning of our history – is unnervingly uncomfortable. Much like when something is said that is too close for comfort, so it is here; the first act of murder is accredited to the just the second generation of humanity. Even now we know, surrounded as we are by the trappings of civilisation and technology many thousands of years after the time such events would have happened, that humanity is just far too good and destroying itself.
We still feel the full weight of the Fall today. It doesn’t take a particle physicist to realise that all is not well in our world.
At the time I am writing this, there is severe economic crises happening in Europe, fierce riots and bloody repression in Yemen, doctors being imprisoned for tending the wounds of protesters in Bahrain, Christian pastors being hanged in Iran…the list of death, destruction and woe seems never ending. The good always feels outweighed with the bad. Just a glance at a newspaper is enough to make a decent human being angry at all the cruelty in the world, and worn out by it as well.
In Romans 8, Paul declares that the world feels exactly the same way;
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. – Romans 8:19-22
All of creation – everything that exists – is groaning, waiting for the day promised by God, a day when it would be restored to what it once was. It is eager, desperate, to be renewed – wipe away all the hurt and wrong that has been happening in it.
To be freed from the consequences of an action that it had no say in, and didn’t want.
Creation still feels the full weight of the Fall, even today, and it is waiting.
For what, though? What does ‘the revealing of the sons of God’ mean?
Even in the early days of the church, the question was already asked whether everyone who claimed to be a Christian was genuinely so. Augustine, living in the 4th and 5th centuries, remarked in books 1 and 2 of The City of God that there are many in the church who pretend to believe, because it is beneficial to them in some worldly way. A thousand years later, the protestant reformers expanded on this idea and came up with two conceptions of church. What we see today they called the ‘Visible Church‘; an institution in which both genuine believers and false ones resided. When it comes to this passage, they believed that Paul spoke of a day when the ‘Invisible Church‘ would be revealed; the day when those who genuinely believe will be held up as faithful and the world could see them, once and for all, for what they are.
It seems like a slightly odd place to write about creation longing for the true people of God to be revealed, given that it is a passage on present sufferance and the future hope we have. But, on closer inspection, it makes much more sense; creation longs for this day because that day is the one that God has promised all will be set right, when righteousness will be restored to earth.
It longs because this day is when God promised the world will be made well and the pain will be over. So take courage in your current hardships; you aren’t the only one longing for a God to make all things right.
The universe is waiting too.
- Original Sin, Again [EvolutionBlog] (scienceblogs.com)
- Cain and Abel (econtra.wordpress.com)
- Sermon: Sunday, September 18, 2011: Second Sunday in the Season of Creation (byproclamation.wordpress.com)
- Part 4: Hope Unseen (onwardswearychristian.wordpress.com)