“The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” —Romans 8:21
We humans are part of creation. We are part of God’s creation. We are God’s image bearers in creation.
We are just a part of God’s massive creation. Anyone who has contemplated the scale of the universe is familiar with the humbling awareness of how small our little speck of a planet is. Within our little planet, we are just one species. And each one of us is just one organism of this one species on this one planet in this one solar system in this one galaxy.
And yet, in some mysterious and ennobling sense, we humans are distinctly important in this creation. In his letter to Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote that our own liberation from sin has creation-wide implications. All of creation suffers when we fail to be the image bearers of God we were made to be. And all of creation rejoices at our liberation.
A lot of this is cloaked in mystery. How exactly is human sin implicated in seemingly random suffering like a child’s cancer diagnosis or a fatal freak accident or a (pre-human) mass extinction event? I don’t really know how to talk about those connections (to the extent that they exist) in any intelligible and loving and truthful way.
But there are also elements that we can see pretty clearly. The current mass extinction event has a lot to do with our arrogant destruction of creation. The spread of a novel coronavirus and the suffering that’s gone along with it have in some cases been made worse by pre-existing sinful neglect of poor and under-resourced communities and by leadership around the world more focused on self-preservation than on servanthood. The frequency and severity of extreme weather events have been increased by our sinful and short-sighted delay in adopting renewable energy sources.
Thankfully, the remedy stands before us, not as an abstract idea or principle, but as a person. On the cross, Jesus liberated us from bondage to sin and death. He liberated all of us. Creation longs for us to realize that we’re free and to start living like the redeemed. Creation longs for us to give up our addictions to pride and myopia and become addicted to compassion and wisdom. Creation longs for us to remember that we bear the very image of our Creator, that we are claimed as children of the one true King of creation, that we have been set free for freedom. Creation is looking to us to be who we are.