I believe Romans 8:18-30 tells us Christians exactly where we are right now, what we are called to do, and what’s going to happen. In a time when confusion reigns and the future is no less clear than the present, we need a Word from God to provide clarity and assurance. And I’m convinced that this middle part of this critical chapter is that Word.
Yesterday we looked at where we are. The world is in pain. All of creation is groaning, right up to the present time. The whole world is in pain because of sin. That’s where we are. That’s what’s happening right now.
And the Church shares the world’s pain. That’s what we’re called to do.
“We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons and daughters, the redemption of our bodies.” ~Romans 8:23
We join the world’s pain. We bear the world’s pain. We don’t ignore it. We don’t isolate ourselves from it or look the other way and pretend it’s not happening. The Church is called to share the world’s pain.
Wait. Why us? Because we know. We know things are not the way they are supposed to be. We have the firstfruits. We’ve seen glimpses of the eternal glory. We’ve tasted the way things are supposed to be. We’ve experienced a little bit of what God is doing. When we come together around the table and share the communion meal, we are one with God in Christ and we are one with each other. Perfect fellowship. Perfect unity. Perfect acceptance and forgiveness and love and peace. And that’s not ordinary. It’s Christian.
Baby blessings and baptisms, missions work and Loaves and Fishes, small groups and 4Amarillo — we experience up close and personal these firstfruits of the Spirit. We see and hear and taste and touch God’s healing and cleansing, his joy and forgiveness, his power and reconciliation and compassion and love. And it’s not what you find in the ways of this broken world. It’s uniquely Gospel.
To accomplish what’s coming for us, our Lord Jesus had to get out of his comfort zone and put on our pain. That’s the Gospel truth. Christ Jesus left his home in glory, he sacrificed his position and power, he gave up his status and wealth, and he joined us in our pain. He came to where we are, he put on our flesh and blood, he clothed himself in our skin, and he suffered in the dirt with us. He became familiar with our sufferings. He carried our burdens. He healed our disease. He became our sin for us, to rescue us from the corruption and decay.
We all share the common human predicament of pain. Of groaning. So, like our Lord Jesus, we intentionally seek out the pain in others. Where is that pain? You look for it. And you don’t have to look hard because we’re surrounded by it. And we join the pain. We embrace the pain. We live it. We share it. We stand with and for those who are in pain. We speak for and with those who are suffering. The Church is called to share the world’s pain. Who else is going to? And if the Church doesn’t do it now, when will we?
Some of you, I know, the pain is too far away. The problems are just on TV. You’ve never been shot by a police officer, you’ve never been pulled over for no reason, you’ve never been discriminated against at school or work, you’ve not had opportunities taken from you because of your skin color. And maybe you don’t know anybody who has. It’s not something you think about or talk about unless it’s on TV.
For some of you, though, the pain is very close. You do know someone. You’ve experienced it yourself. You’ve spent hours crying in front of the TV the past three weeks. You think about it and talk about it all the time.
And, yeah, there’s no doubt we’re all over the map in our churches. We have lots of different viewpoints and opinions. We probably disagree about what should be done and what ought to work and the steps that need to be taken. We’re not going to be on the same page.
But here’s what the Bible tells us. The world is in pain. The whole world is broken because of sin. And it’s groaning. And, like our Lord Jesus, his Church is called to share the world’s pain.
And you might say, “I don’t know anything about racism. I don’t know how to fix it.” And all the other problems in the world — not just racism. You don’t know anything about drugs or homelessness or divorce. You can’t relate to CPS cases or losing your job.
Well, you do know how to love people. You do know how to sacrifice and serve people. You know how to just sit with people, to just be present with people. If it were your daughter, you’d do it. I’ve seen you. I’ve seen you move heaven and earth, I’ve seen you sacrifice and suffer for the sake of being with your son or daughter. I’ve seen you struggle to build bridges and reconcile relationships with the people you love. I’ve seen you work so hard and give up so much to heal and restore what’s broken in your own families.
The world is in pain right now. That’s where we are. The Church shares the world’s pain. That’s what we’re called to do.
I had the great pleasure of sharing lunch with two African American brothers today and then recording a podcast together about the upcoming “Uniting as One” city-wide worship service on June 28. Isaac Butler, the associate pastor at St. John Baptist, and Chris Brown, a minister at Temple of Praise Church, honored me with their company and their passion to see all of God’s people come together as one Body in Christ Jesus. You can listen to the podcast by clicking here. I’ll be sharing more about the worship gathering in this space later this week.