“Can I Have Anything for the Pain?”
Romans 8:12-25 “Can I Have Anything for the Pain?”
Before reading: New Testament scholar Dr. Paul Achtemeier describes chapter 8:
“In these verses Paul turns from the problem of the law and its servitude to sin to the power which saves the Christian from law and sin, and which represents the promise of God’s final victory over the powers of evil. That power is God’s Spirit.” (Interpretations Commentary Series, 130)
The power of God’s Spirit is our only hope to win the battle over sin. We can will
all we want to be good, but there is no good in us. Today’s passage offers an image and insight to what being saved means. At salvations’ root is relationship.
Please listen to the Word of God from Romans 8:12-25 either through reading your
Bible or clicking on the Scripture reading on the web-bulletin.
1. Two striking images define this passage. The Holy Spirit, which is at
work in creation and in Christians, is the theme and the agent of both of these images. The first image has to do with being family. “Children of God” is used five times in this passage. With only one exception, “” which translates “sons of God,” the Greek wording literally says “children of God,” “” The mode of becoming children of God is adoption, which is used twice. Each Christian is adopted into the family of God, the Church. By the power of the Spirit, we are transformed from ‘slave’ to ‘child’ (Achtemeier, 138) Further to establish this family relationship, Paul later in chapter 8 names us “brothers” of
Christ: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might
be the firstborn among many brothers.” (8:29)
Thus, we truly are heirs of the family treasures.
2. The second image also deals with family and starts at the beginning
of family. Though men think they know about labor, women do
know fully what Paul talks about in verses 22 and 23: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.”
You know this groaning. If you have kept with anything going in our
world today, you have seen and heard the groaning. At the death of George Floyd on May 25 (Memorial Day), I heard groaning. The nation and world heard groaning and remembered that “Black Lives Matter.” Earlier at the realization that the Covid-19 virus was a global pandemic and people all over the world were infected, severely ill, and dying, we heard groaning. In each of us God has seeded a yearning for God. Existentially a human being is not complete until God fills that hollow space within a person’s heart. Humanity seeks to fill the void of emptiness, but only God can satisfy the hungry heart. Creation “groans and yearns for that moment of deliverance, like a mother in the pangs of birth years for the delivery of her child….” (Ibid, 142) The image of creation giving birth to the new world called the kingdom of God gives the world a future amidst the labor pains. She will bear fruit. While we wait for the final consummation of our adoption, the labor is labor with groaning and yearning. With creation and humanity in labor, according to Paul, we may wonder, “Can we have anything for the pain?”
3. Morris West, a Christian author and novelist, weaves his novels
around Christian themes. One of the best, titled The Shoes of the Fisherman, tells the story of a Pope of compassion called from the lower ranks of the Catholic Church. In this quote, the real life of a Christian is described from extracts of the diary of Pope Kiril I:
It costs so much to be a fully human being that there are very few who have the enlightenment, or the courage, to pay the price…. One has to abandon altogether the search for security, and reach out to the risk of living with both arms. One has to embrace the world like a lover, and yet demand no easy return of love. One has to accept pain as a condition of existence. One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to the total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying. (#1127, Respectfully Quoted; Shoes, 254)
“One has to accept pain as a condition of existence.” There is no pie in
the sky Christianity for Paul. There is a working hope in the pain of life. Being a follower of Christ means knowing the pain of Jesus, today described in terms of childbirth and groaning.
4. The image of the creation being in labor is intriguing. What is to be
born of creation? Why is there labor still today? I could only think during these days that God is calling us to wake up, to wake up to the largest existential climate crisis, to wake up to the crisis of systemic racism and mass incarceration, and the crisis of the global pandemic. Creation’s labors pains are increasingly strengthened and closer as the world continues to create waste and pollution without lasting, effective solutions. Creation is in pain, but we can help with the pain. Don’t worry; the new world will be born from creation, but we must live through the labor pains as faithful Christians and good stewards.
5. Being “children of God” means, by definition, that we are connected
to other children of God. Through adoption, each Christian and each church are connected one to the other through the Holy Spirit. Through adoption, we are connected by blood relationship, too. When there is suffering in the family of God, we all suffer. That’s why we must grieve with, pray with, and seek ways to be a part of our brothers and sisters in Christ here and around the world to grieve the haunting deaths,
the hateful discrimination,
and the desecrating pollution.
The creation and we groan.
6. We are no longer slaves. We have received a Spirit of adoption.
When we cry “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – (hear Paul adds a condition, a surprising condition on our being heirs with Christ) if
in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified
with him.” (8:12)
7. Sports were a major part of my family’s life growing up. My four
siblings and parents all excelled at one sport or another. My younger brother and I excelled on the high school football team. Coach Simonton would remind us in numerous ways, “no pain, no gain.” I think the other coaches, David, Johnson, Metts, and Webb, all agreed with the head coach.
There is a lot of truth in those words. God believes “no pain, no gain,”
too. We know that truth from the cross and the sacrifice of Jesus,
the Son of God, for us. At the end of this race, however, is
These days I know many people miss the sports
in person and on TV.
8. In the labor of life, there is no anesthesia to deaden the pain. We
must endure. We must run the race of life. But for the pain, Paul
and God leave us with hope.
For the pain, there is the presence of God.
In a book titled Leading the Congregation, there is a quote from Nikos
Kazantzakis and his book The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises:
My prayer is not the whimpering of a beggar nor a confession of love. Nor is it the trivial reckoning of a small tradesman: Give me and I shall give you. My prayer is the report of a soldier to his general: This is what I did today, this is how I fought to save the entire battle in my own sector, these are the obstacles I found, this is how I plan to fight tomorrow. My God and I are horsemen galloping in the burning sun or under drizzling rain. Pale, starving, but unsubdued, we ride and converse. “Leader!” I cry. He turns his face towards me, and I shudder to confront his anguish. Our love for each other is rough and ready, we sit at the same table, we drink the same wine in this low tavern of life.” (62, 63)
Our prayer is the report of a soldier to his general. We say to God, “This
is the story of my day, my call, my faithfulness to my duty as a Christian in life’s battle. This is the story of my faithfulness tomorrow in this world of grief and sorrow, of callousness and prejudice, and of pandemic and death.
“Can we have anything for the pain?”
And God turns his face toward us. We shudder to see his anguish.
We know God suffers with us. Being adopted, we the children of God suffer together. Today as we journey together alone in this earthly battle, we wait with eager hope and expectance patience for
the glory of God, creation’s redemption and our salvation.
As we wait with patience for the redemption of our bodies, God gives us
the hope we know in Jesus and with the indwelling of the Holy
Spirit to soothe our pain. Our love for each other is untamed,
we sit at the same table, we drink the same wine in this
low tavern of life with our God.
With much love, there is much pain.
Jesus suffers with us.
We suffer with him and that is enough for now,