“For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now…” (Romans 8:22)
“Our world is so bad these days.” If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard this over the years I’d be rich! We know it is hard for many people today. We see struggles every day in our work. So how do we respond as Christians? I’ve been thinking a lot about this especially during the current state we find ourselves in today. Growing up I tended to go along with the mindset that the world was going to hell in a hand-basket, but I was safe because I was in God’s kingdom and was going to heaven.
As I’ve matured (and hopefully) grown closer to Jesus, I’ve understood the idea of God’s kingdom a little more clearly. Throughout the Gospels Jesus is always talking about God’s kingdom in parables. The kingdom is like a mustard seed or like the pearl of great price (see Matthew 13). So God’s kingdom doesn’t seem to be only a place like heaven far away from everything, but also a way of life that is priceless, slowly growing in the shell of the old, as Shane Claiborne puts it.
So what is our underlying motive when we say our world is going to hell? If our motive is to bring hope and healing to this world then great, let’s keep using it. But if our motive is to put our heads in the sand, and retreat into our churches and homes safe from the world because we are going to heaven, then NO let’s not use it because God is about redeeming all aspects of the world, beginning with us! Paul tells us that the world labors in birth pangs for the redemption of all creation. (Romans 8:22) Every woman knows that birth pangs bring new life; a beautiful child will be born! God is doing the same thing. God takes the messiness of our lives and makes something beautiful with them. God is bringing about a new way of life, redeeming us from the inside out, reconciling the world to Himself. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). So even when things seem unbelievably hard and hopeless in our world, God is about making all things new (Revelation 21:5).
That’s what this Holy Week is about as we walk “The Way of Suffering” with Jesus to the cross—when everything seems dark—God’s kingdom is growing, a kingdom where death and the cross become life and resurrection. So may we look for ways God is working this week behind the scenes, and may we pray and work for God’s kingdom to come “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Lenten Life-giving Discipline: When someone says our world is terrible, remember God is making all things new, starting with you and I.