When “the creation was subjected to futility,” the one who subjected it did so “in hope” (Romans 8:20). What hope? The 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” (Romans 8:21). The futility infecting creation is not ultimately futile. It points to a coming liberation.
A late verdant spring is at this moment giving way to a lush early summer in Minnesota, the state where I have sojourned these nearly 55 years. Walking outside on a fair morning, when the brilliant new variegated greens of the trees and grasses are bursting with life, when a gorgeous spectrum of colorful, fragrant blossoms waves in the gentle breeze and seems to silently sing for joy, when the deep blues of our abundant rivers and lakes quiet frenetic thoughts, and everything is awash in the golden light of a blazing star ascending in a sky-field of azure, one can almost wonder if Eden has returned.
Almost. Then a police vehicle speeds by me, followed soon by a blaring ambulance. Then beneath the bridge I see the decaying body of a songbird whose voice so recently added more beauty to our urban avian choir. Then I pass by burned-out, boarded-up buildings that testify to the great pain and anger that just days ago surged through our streets after a man was needlessly killed under the knee of an officer of the peace. Then I read of another priceless life lost to a global pandemic, adding to the terrible death toll of hundreds of thousands and to the millions of living hearts broken. And then I read of the global economic crises driving hundreds of millions to desperate places.
The stories keep coming. Another child subjected to the nightmare of sexual abuse, the impending demise of the Great Barrier Reef, the slaughter of 92 soldiers at the hands of armed religious zealots in central Africa. I don’t wish to read more. Eden has not returned.
Looking at this sun-drenched spring morning world, I delight in its glory and the glory of the One who created it. But woven into this sublime beauty is sorrowful gore. The world labors under a profound and horrible brokenness. I hear its groaning and groan with it to the One who created it. But there is hope in this groaning, for the world’s Creator is also its Redeemer, and he has promised that something greater than Eden is coming.