“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us; for the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits 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; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?”
Romans 8:18-25 NKJ
My column is normally not considered to be a politically relevant column. That is by choice, actually. I am decidedly certain I do not possess the masochism required to be a politically relevant columnist. It seems to me I would have to enjoy the pain of it a heckuva lot more than I enjoy pain, for me to be interested in making a full-time column out of politics. This particular column is an exception however, though not exactly an intentional political exception as much as it is an exceptional study of the modern relevancy of the Biblical message with a bit of spillage out into the arena of politics.
In my spare minutes (which are dwindling fast the more #frazzledandsingledadlike I become) I spend time walking the Romans Road as much as I possibly can. Hidden wiithin the masterpiece that is the book of Romans, there are countless opportunities to stop, pause, reflect and philosophize on scriptural ideas until the proverbial End of Days, if one so chose.
One of those opportunities comes to us in Romans 8:18-25. The scripture I have provided above never ceases to amaze me as to its relevancy in today’s world...and indeed, it's politics. This passage surprises me actually; not surprised that it is relevant, but that it's importance is relegated to the list of specific obscure scriptures to which, very little attention is paid. Given that this area of Romans, Chapter 8 (prefaced by 6 & 7) to be exact, is as theologically relevant to the Christian doctrine as any other portion of scripture in the Bible, I would think it would have been more noticeable. Hence the surprise. But than again, if it had been given more attention, I would not have the distinct honor and opportunity to talk about it myself, in my own way. Pretty cool how that works eh?
I have a passion for the environment. I love the outdoors. I love the stars. I even married the ocean one time whilst attempting to pursue a Marine Bio degree (oh don’t scoff, enough John Daniels brings about lots of interesting little pairings if you hadn’t noticed chuckle). I love finding little creatures as well as big, navigating through my life experience, enriching me beyond anything I could ever imagine this far south of Heaven. I am also getting closer and closer to living solely on green food, though that is a heart and weight thing more than it is politically motivated.
I actually consider myself to be an environmentalist, defined by a significant concern for the maintenance and protection of our natural world (my definition). It isn’t politically motivated, however. The more traditional environmentalists tend to ignore and discount us as we don’t seem to be Atheistic enough, I have experienced. And of course, the far right tends to think we are nutty for trending towards environmental concerns which are, as I said, traditionally championed by (largely speaking) left leaning folks.
So with that intro, fix your gaze on the scripture passage above and see if you can see what I see. This passage was the beginning of my biblically based ideas on environmentalism.
(Pause, so you can read)
Oh good! Then here we go….
What is an expectation, generically speaking? An expectation is a thought about the future, immediate or otherwise. Not only is it a thought, but a reasoning thought that factors in time as well as the possibility of consequence if said expectation does not come to fruition. Thought and reason are traditionally seen as basic hallmarks of intelligence.
The creation has an expectation…
(an earnest one to be exact)
Earnest means…..a serious and intent mental state; a considerable or impressive degree or amount characterized by or proceeding from, an intense and serious state of mind.
…and it is waiting.
Waiting implies a deferred decision, or a deferred action; planning ahead instead of thinking only of the now; all of which imply reason and thought.
Do your august proverbial gazes see what it is I am seeing?
Apparently the creation has an ability to reason and to think, even to plan ahead according to current information. If that alone were present in this passage, I may have simply overlooked it as metaphorical (something I rarely do with Pauline Theology). This isn’t the only indication in the passage however, that tells us the Creation has intelligence and volition, a will…umm…if you will.
“the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs”
Not only does Paul appear to be telling us the Creation can reason and think given that it has an expectation of a future event and is playing the waiting game, he is also telling us it has a sensory/perception attribute, more importantly it feels pain. Within the context of the passage and this idea of labor and groaning, Paul has clearly tagged a certain specialness of femininity to the creation and one that (also clearly) is motherly, and that it feels pain along the lines and intensity of birthing pangs.
This portion of the passage does not include humanity, as some might suggest, which is the main criticism of my argument. One might say that Paul is referring to the thinking/reasoning creatures of the Creation (human beings) and that the entirety of the earth is not what Paul is referring to. He is talking about people, in summation.
That might actually make sense if Paul hadn’t penned another statement having to do with our own moaning and groaning. Paul, shortly after writing the statement about a laboring earth, goes on to say that not only is the Creation groaning and laboring in expectation for the End of Days, but the expectation that the Creation is indeed thinking about and experiencing the consequences of ie. pain, is also (the exact word Paul chose) similar to what we are experiencing as Being Humans (chuckle, Just a bit of play on words).
“…not only that (that being the pain and expectation of the Creation), but we also (the pain and expectation of the creation is also our own), who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption.”
If you aren’t seeing it, try removing the comma splice in the middle.
“ not only that, but we also, even we ourselves groan within ourselves”
Separate and thinking humanity appears to also be carrying the same type of expectation (or vice versa, however you choose to look at it), while also experiencing the same type of pains resulting from said expectation as the earth is experiencing while existing as an apparent thinking, reasoning and feeling entity; a Spiritual entity along the lines of humanity.
Cool Sentence huh? ;-)
Are you seeing this?
Sounds like an intelligent life form, eh? Something that maybe…maybe should be nurtured and even protected?
There's a thought.
Given that Paul seems to not only consider the Creation a life form but also a Mothering life form, does it not cause even a question of doubt that God, being the Author of said Creation, might want us to nurture and even treat the earth as the sacred and living being it is, instead of just a rock we happen to reside upon? Does He not want us to be filled with respect and accountability? A lot like He expects us to treat our own parents? A living parent that has a Hope for continuity and sustainability? A parent that has given us foundation for living, breathing and thriving? One that nurtures us and provides for us?
For myself, I am thoroughly convinced that we are (or were supposed to be) caretakers of the Garden. We have a certain responsibility to take on the careful tending of something that was at one time, our only responsibility.
Native tradition suggests that the footprints we leave upon the earth should be careful and light; that the mark we leave will produce life and preservation as opposed to killing, death and stagnation. It sounds too practical huh? First Nations, generally speaking, have also (since storytelling began) considered the earth to be a parent, a Mother even, from which we can grow, thrive and produce. It is the source of everything (physical that is) needed, even desired for that matter. The idea of the earth as our Mother has been with us since the children of the Sun first walked upon the Golden Grasses of our infancy, when the thoughts of who we as a people might one day become, were still laced with the hope that we would act with responsibility and care.
I will have to agree with this idea...fully.
….and furthermore, I have already concluded in my own mind that this idea was valid when it was penned, and remains to this day a completely biblical idea (even though the relevancy of this passage is virtually ignored) which makes it a significant truth for someone like me…and a responsibility to tend to…to nourish even, in relationship as an “US.” For that is what we have with our mothers and in fact…our world. WE are in a relationship and for the Creation to continue holding up its end, giving and producing what we need, our part of the relationship could use some thought…