The Groaning of Creation and the Transformation by the Spirit

Light of Truth

Benny Nalkara, CMI

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom 8:22-23). This particular exposition of Paul often creates a lot of confusions and questions in the minds of the readers. What’s the “groaning of creation” to do with human creation? Has the Resurrection of Jesus to do anything in this transformation of creation? What is the role of the Holy Spirit here?
Rom 8:1-39 is the heart of the letter to the Romans. After dealing with the sinfulness of the whole humankind (1:18-3:20), Paul speaks about the act of God in Christ through which he brought humankind to the realm of divine acceptance (3:21-31) through faith (4:1-25), which is further explained as a threefold liberation from sin, the slavery of the law and the tragedy of death (5:1-7:25). In Rom 8:18-25, Paul speaks about the dynamics of the Spirit, the children and the eschatological transformation of the material creation (ktisis). The traditional picture of the end of the material creation was in apocalyptic language borrowed from Judaism with its basic pessimism (Mt 24:29-31; Mk 13:24-27; 2 Pt 3:10). Now we see Paul’s re-conception of the destiny of the material creation in the light of the resurrection of Christ. Matter, as such, is destined to destruction and disintegration. But the resurrection of Christ has definitively established that matter is ultimately and teleologically meant not for destruction but for transformation.
This section about the material creation also emphasizes the close relationship between humans and the material creation. Material creation, of which we are a constituent part, is not a neuter reality, a stage on which humans can act their drama of life and disappear. It also has a big share in the glory which is to be given to the children. The basis of this hope is also in the proleptic event of the resurrection. In fact, God has set this goal about the glorification of material creation in the very beginning of creation and he has proleptically realized it in the resurrection of Christ. But at the present time the entire material creation is undergoing a chorus of groaning. It is a groaning as in the case of a woman in child birth, which is pain and joy at the same time and Jesus also refers to this phenomenon (Jn 16:21). It is with this assurance that the material creation is marching towards the promised glory in hope, while the children themselves are also joining this groaning because of the basic brokenness all are experiencing in their inner self and are waiting for their own eschatological glorification.
The groaning of material creation points to the problem of evil and corruption that is at work on this planet earth in each and every community through sickness, oppression, exploitation, marginalization, ecological disorders and humanly made disparity between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. It’s reality that we across. This passage has more profound meaning in our times..
The ecological problems of pollution, exploitation of the nature and exhaustion of the resources of the material creation have drastic consequences for the whole humankind. And this exhortation of Paul on the intrinsic union between the suffering and transformation of the creation with the resurrection of Christ gives hope and optimism to us. The resurrection of Christ guarantees and looks forward to the transformation of the entire material creation (ktisis). In our communion with Christ through the transformed signs of the material creation we are also mutually integrated and are invited to lead a transformed life in this material creation according to God’s original plan (Gen 1:26-31; 2:7,15).
The existential relationship and the eschatological destiny of the children and the material creation is explained by Paul here. For him, the whole creation is conceived by God in the person of Christ, and it is in him, through him and for him that all things were created. The whole cosmic process is moving towards its goal and we have to get active1y invo1ved in this process. The future glorification and the present suffering are correlated. Both the creation and the children are engaged in this chorus of groaning. in view of the glory to come. The Spirit of the risen Christ in engaged in the ongoing transformation not only of the children but also of the material creation.
The need of developing love, respect and gratitude between the children and the material creation is envisioned by this passage. We, the human beings are invited to a transformation of our entire life and develop a new world vision. A new era has dawned. A greater sense of responsibility and self-discipline on the part of each Christian is expected. By becoming the heirs of the resurrection of Christ, we have received the responsibility of liberation and transformation of the humankind and the entire material creation.

Leave a Comment