Suffering

Suffering<Glory – Tuesday, 30th week in ordinary time- Romans 8:18-25

Too often in our culture we hear preaching suggesting that followers of Jesus can bypass suffering. We hear this, for instance, from “prosperity gospel” preachers who suggest that the right kind of faith and prayer will bring health and prosperity. Yet Paul in today’s reading asserts that the life of faith is not validated by such external signs. Rather, “we hope for what we do not see” (8:25).

In order to understand today’s text we need to look at the context so far. Paul has previously described the conflict we experience as those enslaved to sin and death (Romans 7:14-25), Paul presents Jesus, the son of God as our only hope of deliverance “in the likeness of sinful flesh” to deal with sin (8:3) and has given us his Spirit to dwell within us, so that we are now led by the Spirit of God (8:9-14).

The Spirit bears witness that we have been adopted as God’s children and have become joint heirs with Christ (8:15-17). Because we are joint heirs with Christ, we can expect to share in both his sufferings and his glory (8:17).

Paul is confident that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us” (8:18), yet he does not gloss over the present reality of suffering. The suffering to which Paul refers is not limited to persecution for the sake of following Christ. Instead, Paul is speaking in general terms of the suffering we all experience in “this present time,” since we are part of a world in bondage to sin, death, and decay.

Paul now introduces the threefold testimony given to the Christian destiny which is sharply contrasted with the suffering just mentioned. Paul reminds his readers that, although suffering is a sign of the authentic Christian experience, it is only a transition to the assured glory that awaits us.

Paul speaks of (1) the whole creation experiencing this bondage and “waiting with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God” (8:19). He says further that “the whole creation has been groaning together in labour pains until now, and not only the creation, but (2) we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (8:22-23). And finally, we are not left alone in our waiting and struggle, for (3) “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (8:26). The Spirit gives voice to what we cannot articulate but hope and long for in our inmost selves.

-compiled from various sources.

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