Reflecting on Romans 8 18-30

How do we respond to the idea that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing to the positive outcome we can expect, and presumably hope for, in the future? This seems to be Paul’s first claim in this text – but we are probably aware that not everyone finds claims like that comfortable, or comforting, for a few different reasons. That seems like a big area to explore, in our study of Romans 8:18-30 for Sunday, May 8 – Mother’s Day. This text seems remarkably, and unexpectedly, appropriate for that occasion, by the way, with its insistent images of childbirth. Some notes on the text are here. Here are a couple of additional questions we might want to reflect on, or discuss in class:

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Paul says the creation has been subjected to futililty. He presumably refers here to a couple of features of the natural world: cyclic returns, like the seasons; the round of birth, life, death, and rebirth that causes the wise to observe that ultimately everything ends up amounting to nothing, and everyone ends up in the same place. What do we ourselves think or feel about that? Would we agree with Paul’s assessment (and Ecclesiastes’, we might note) – or would we want to argue with it? Why?

[Way more speculative … actually, probably a trick question …] So, what would a creation that wasn’t subject to futility be like, do we imagine?

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In verse 23, our English translation reads that we are awaiting “the redemption of our bodies;” the available Greek text reads that we are awaiting “the redemption of our body.” Do those different readings give us different ideas about what we are awaiting? What different ideas? Any implications of that difference for us? What implications?

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What comes to mind when we read that “we do not know [see] how to pray as we ought”? Do we get any clues about how we might get better at that from this text? What clues?

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What is the “hope” that the text speaks of, do we think? Can we tell, from the text here? Who has this hope, according to the text? What ideas and feelings does that raise in us? Why?

What do we learn about God from this?

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[As I read it, this text tells us that God has hopes for us, and for all of creation. This thought amazes me – and gives me a lot to think about.]

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Image: “La Pensadora,” photo by ÁWá, cropped, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons; “Figures in Conversation – Étaples,” Leslie Hunter, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

2 responses to “Reflecting on Romans 8 18-30”

  1. After giving much thought to this passage in conjunction with a few others, on the day my mother got her terminal prognosis with cancer, my family went up on Knife Edge look out in Mesa Verde National Park near our family home to watch the sunset and pray.

    As you can imagine, with many songs and prayers, we yearned for that Other future after the dead are raised in Christ with her and began to imagine. If Joshua could stop the sun in the sky, if the flowers bloom along the path in the desert, if the image bearer walks on water and the dead are raised, then perhaps we will come to this place again on that day and repaint the sunset to suit us.

    We took comfort in such imaginings, and I still do fifteen years later.

    Liked by 1 person

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