by Rev. Park Sung Yong
About the Article:
Rev. Park Sung Yong likened the current global situation to the groaning of creation as mentioned in the Book of Romans. He presented this Bible Study at the Student Empowerment for Transformation (SET) Program 2008, Korea
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 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 first fruits 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. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
As a former persecutor of Christians, Paul has changed his life orientation toward Christian mission to the outsiders. This ‘spiritual conversion’ happened when he fell from the horse on the road to Damascus. His experiences of ‘blindness’ and being ‘upside-down’ purportedly inspired him to awaken his spirit to a new dimension of life.
According to Paul, Roman 8 describes how the Spirit of God is revealed through his Creation and in effect, describes as well, the true meaning of Christian identity. That is, Christ’s discipleship does not depend on rituals, membership or conviction of belief-systems but on surrendering one’s life to the Spirit’s guidance. The ‘inner personality’ that he called as a sign of true Christian identity, is understood to be a person whom the Spirit lives within and is open to the Spirit’s leading. This is to symbolize ‘the radical Christians,’ who lives in freedom and experience power beyond domination of this world.
Surprisingly, the apostle Paul introduced a new paradigm of faith about who God is and how God is related with the world, and what kinds of life we as Christians can expect.
First, it is to be awaken to ‘the suffering of the whole Creation.’ His faith is not limited to just human sin and suffering. His view goes beyond the boundary of the existential predicament of humans and extended to include the suffering of creations. If we compare the magnitude of the environmental crisis during Paul’s time and our century, we can surmise that the suffering of whole creation is not as serious as today, but still his spiritual vision is so sensitive to the suffering of creations. Rather, he regarded the actuality of creation’s crying as a matter of faith in God. That is, ultimately he saw the suffering/crying of the Spirit through the suffering and crying of creation.
For us, to identify the suffering of creation with that of Spirit is an important shift in Christian faith but still strange to all of modern Christians. Since Christendom (Christian Empire), Christianity has been silent in responding to the “crying of the Spirit”. However, from the beginning of his Christian life, Paul insisted on the nature of ‘God’s compassion and love (literally, ‘to feel together’) with his creation.
Secondly, this crying of whole creation allows a new awakening of faith. That is, Paul feels the invisible crying of Spirit through the visible crying of creation. To be cautious, he insists that the Spirit lives in ‘crying of creatures’, with them, for them in Spirit’s redemptive works.
The suffering and vulnerability of human and all creature empower Spirit’s engagement into this worldly crises, the more human and creature feel despair, the stronger Spirit works within these weaknesses.
Thirdly, there should be an ultimate trust on the Spirit’s guidance inspite of the complicated and seemingly inconquerable situation of crises in this world. The reality of misery like ‘human sin’ and ‘bondage to decay’ opens our eyes toward God’s redemptive action for his people and creations. Therefore, the place of misery is where Immanuel God (literal. ‘God-with-us’) reveal himself to us. This is where God initiatives are revealed. Example, the Exodus story revealed who God is and acts of God for his people. “... I have seen their crying and listen to... Now I will act for my people.”
The reality of slave/bondage under domination and destruction is related with God’s revelation. It opens our eyes to see God’s redemptive initiatives. In ultimate consequence, the Spirit of life will set me/us free from the law of the sin and death (8:2) and bring into glorious freedom of the children of God (20). This is key message on how we can overcome our despair and crying.
In this sense, the deep crying of the Spirit is not to further put us into despair or powerlessness. Rather, because of it, we understand our strength, we feel consolation and develop new outlook and perspectives. In my opinion, Christian existence depends on two important signposts in life: one is the current suffering of the world and the other, our understanding of God’s promise of a ‘new earth and a new heaven.’ In other words, Christian life consists of both responding and protesting sincerely against the misery of our life today in order to attain the glorious freedom as ultimate reality by means of God’s love. The hope for attaining the glorious freedom becomes matrix of energy to set us free from the slave condition. By this hope, the misery empower our commitment to new vision.
Faced by ecological crisis and uncertainty of the future generation’s survival, do we really recognize that the suffering/crying of creatures become issues of our faith? Do we really also feel Spirit’s involvement into our/creature’s vulnerability passionately, as Spirit dwell in our life and creation? Furthermore, does this condition of visible suffering situation of creature lead us to be awaken for liberation from slavery of eco-sin? In spite of human corruption and suffering of creatures, does sincere hope for ‘glorious freedom’ prevail our existence? The apostle Paul is asking us these questions.