24 April 2021Romans 8:12-25
…the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. (v. 18)
What a great set of verses to end the week with! For many people Romans 8 would be one of their ‘Desert Island Discs’ passages. It has been a source of inspiration and comfort to Christians down the centuries but, like all of Paul’s writing, it’s rooted in the social conditions of his own time and culture. In the first few verses he takes two thoughts that would be very familiar to his readers. One is the theme of debt – a worrying danger in the first century as it is in the twenty-first. Like slavery, it threatened life and took away freedom. Roman Christians knew the consequences of falling into debt all too well. The other theme is of adoption; in a society where family relationships were so important, being able to call someone ‘Father’ (or ‘Abba’ in Aramaic, the language of Jesus) carried with it a sense of identity and hope. Being joined to Christ means becoming children of God, sharing the inheritance of God’s kingdom.
All of this depends on the Holy Spirit, God at work deep within us. This may be a present experience, but it looks forward to a future in which the whole of God’s creation will share in the glory of God. Now Paul takes yet another example from human experience – childbirth. He imagines the whole universe as a woman in labour (verse 22), with all this implies in terms of pain and hopeful expectation. There is something mind-blowing about this. In a few sentences, Paul takes us from the personal to the cosmic. Spirituality is not some personal possession or a self-help technique. It connects us with the whole of humanity and with the whole of the universe. Our hope takes us beyond what we can see, understand or control. In a time when our sense of controlling the world has been shaken, this hope is good news.
- How helpful do you find Paul’s language of ‘debt’ and ’adoption’? Are there examples from contemporary culture that might help us appreciate what he is saying?
- If God is concerned with the transformation of creation, how might this affect our prayers and actions in relation to the planet we inhabit?