For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21)
Um, it kind of sounds like this is saying "the creation was subjected to futility...in hope". Am I reading that right?
I think I am.
I can't think of a better illustration of this than the cursed castle in Beauty and the Beast. Here you have a prince who has a serious heart issue. He's an arrogant jerk. When tested, his heart proves dark, sick, rotten, and hopelessly selfish.
We talked about this story in the previous post. The entire kingdom longs to be human again, but they can't - not until their prince's heart has learned to love. And in the movie, you see these non-people living in hope, driven by hope.
There are aspects of our present condition in the despair of the Beast, bound as he is to his own selfish nature. But in Christ we take on the hope of Lumiere the candlestick and Cogsworth the clock and Mrs. Potts the teapot. We see Jesus Christ, as they saw the beauty who showed up into their doomed world and sacrificed her life out of love for another. We see him laying down his life and taking it up again, the beautiful perfect humanity affirmed by God in his resurrection, and we have every reason to hope. The spell is breaking.
The futility and frustration the people of the castle endure serves as an ever-present memo to the prince: This can all change when you are changed. The Beast has only to look at his friends, at the world of his kingdom, to remember the deal.
Change will come when there is love.
Just like in that movie, the creation was subjected to frustration and futility in hope that its prince, mankind-turned-beast, will learn to love. There is a message being spoken all around us: There is still time. Learn what true love is. Be loved. Love. Be changed by love.
But our story is better. In Beauty and the Beast there was always the question, would the prince learn to love? And there was always the possibility he wouldn't, which meant there was always the danger that they would be in bondage forever.
But in our story, God has (in a very Belle-like fashion I might add) loved mankind by entering our world in an earthly body and, in doing so, taking on the burden of the curse. He let the last petal fall on his own life and he got swallowed up in death. He demonstrated true love.
And in that way hope is realized, and the curse gives way to resurrection to all who are in his kingdom.
So for us, there is no danger, no fear of failure. The hope is hope alone, and creation feels this. Creation has a King, a man who truly loves, and creation's hope is sure - it will be restored.
Romans 8 helps us to enter into this hope with creation. As sons and daughters of God, given dominion over God's creation, we are being changed and resurrected each day spiritually by the Spirit. But as created beings, we join the rocks, the trees, and the sky by being "frustrated in hope."
When our bodies get sick, we are frustrated. But that very sickness is itself a message - a reminder - to hope.
When things break and rot and wear down, we are frustrated. But that decay is a reminder to hope.
When we sin, we are frustrated. Who will deliver me from this body of death? we cry out. But that cry is itself a cry of hope. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom 7:24-25)
Hope comes when we know who loves us, when we love him in return, and when we are purposefully walking in love with others in all the myriad of ways that it is possible to love. We need to learn love if we want to experience the present hope of future resurrection.
We have until the last petal falls to learn to love and be loved by God.
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised... We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation... (2 Cor 5:14-15,20; 6:1-2)
The world around you will frustrate you to no end. Listen to it! Things break, rot, mold, wither, and rust. It's all a reminder of the hope we have in Christ Jesus. The futility and frustration are road signs pointing you to the one who was raised from the dead and even now is making all things new, starting with you.
Claim it. Next time you feel the weight of the corruption and bondage of the world, remember that Christ has offered hope for futility, and then transfer that hope in the work you do in the world. Tackle the endless pile of dishes with the hope of one who is washed by the love of God. Weed the garden with the hope of one whose sin is constantly being weeded out by the loving hands of the Spirit of God. Visit the elderly with the hope of one who is headed towards death...and beyond it. Live by hope, and press into frustration with that hope.