The Hope of Creation

“For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19).
One of the great disappointments I have experienced over the years is the frequent desecration of wonderful places I have been able to visit. Nepal, for instance, is a beautiful country with its magnificent Himalayan mountains. Yet it is scarred and defaced with erosion and blighted with litter. The effect of both tremendous over-population and unconcern with the environment are devastating. The contrast between the wondrous vistas that one looks up to and the ugly pollution that one looks down at is dramatic.
Why do we so defile our world? Is it ignorance, or greed, or simply the inevitable consequence of too many people? All of these play some part, no doubt, but they are not the complete answer. Paul, in Romans, explains,
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who has 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” (Romans 8:20-22).
This is a complex and difficult passage and interpretation is not certain. Yet it seems to indicate clearly at least two things. One, that the created universe is in a bondage which is linked to mankind’s “fall,” that is our sinfulness. Second, that mankind’s salvation will also liberate and free our world.
In the story of mankind’s fall, one immediate consequence was the “cursing” of the earth (Genesis 3:17). Simply put, because of sin, the earth is not as productive or as benevolent as it was its nature to be. Weeds and thorns grow freely. Beneficial crops must be coaxed from the earth. Just as sin has corrupted humanity, so it has corrupted our environment. The universe suffers from our evil deeds.
But there is also hope. As we may be made free from sin in Christ Jesus, so the creation “will be delivered from the bondage of corruption.” This, apparently, is not speaking of an eternal deliverance, for the New Testament elsewhere teaches plainly that this earth and sky will be destroyed in the Last Day (cf 2 Peter 3:10-13). Some believe that Paul is, rather, describing the responsibility that Christians will take towards their God-given home, the earth. As sinners corrupt, so the saints deliver. As the greedy and thoughtless pollute and defile, so the righteous nurture and protect. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden “to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). As we are restored to fellowship with God, do we not also have the same duty? This is His creation. Let us seek to deliver it from the corruption of sin.

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