It’s important to view Paul as an architect of language and spiritual life. He completed the foundation, the flesh and the spirit as two competing forces in our life. He designed the first floor by using the materials of law, sin, death and slavery. Transforming them into a décor infused with the materials of the new life of resurrection and oneness with Jesus. He built such a beautiful picture of this new life he wonders why anyone would squander it for the old. Now he moves to the third floor where more care is needed to set loose the full picture of this new life created by the spirit. In these plans he concentrates on the spiritual forces of hope and destiny. These show the spiritual majesty of the first two floors and take it into the experience of the spirit.
The experience of the spirit in everyday life is not all about the struggle of our thirst for our fleshly desires and our following Jesus through the Spirit. There is another room in this house, one of hope and destiny. It’s the battle to have faith that God is completing his promise, making us His children, and that all things will be transformed into His life-giving treasure. Because we believe we do not, “consider that the sufferings of this present time are…worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” Paul’s architectural plans reveal powerful images of hope, convincing us that God is moving all creation towards its destiny of liberation.
Anyone who has built, remodeled, or decorated a house knows that the decor reflects the designer. Some like dark tones, earth tones or bright tones. Paul likes hopeful tones. He sets people’s minds ablaze with imaginative language that captures their spiritual heart. He opens their minds to the idea that God is coming to liberate them. This is what life in the Spirit is about. It’s the difference from a dark, sad painting by Rembrandt, and a hopeful, alive painting by Dali or Van Gogh. Both have some insight into the world of humanity, but Dali and Van Gogh take humanity to the moon and back. Their paintings are hopeful, yet don’t hold back the suffering. In fact, they see the two as one. You cannot have glory without suffering. You cannot have hope if you see it in the marketplace. It’s something that must take your eyes beyond the everyday to a place that has the power to heal and liberate all who struggle. We need the vision of the future to open us up to hope in the everyday.
How would you decorate this room of hope? How would you make it a constant reminder of God’s goodness and faithfulness? I would make sure I don’t let negativity, arrogance, futility, despair and self-promotion be the last word on anything. To believe in the hopeful liberation of humanity and creation is to believe that the idiocy of humanity is not the last word. God always has the last word. I would decorate my room with quotes from Isaiah, Lamentations, Mark and Exodus and write underneath each quote, “God has the last word.” I would have paintings of Jesus calming the storm, Van Gogh’s wheat fields, and Dali’s painting of Jesus hovering over the world, as if from a star, with a painful tear. I would have the dream of Plenty Coups, chief of the Crow Nation, dreamed about the buffalo leaving but the Crow Nation surviving. It inspired him to stop fighting the white man and start exchanging wisdom with them. The Crow survived, unlike others. Hope is never out of style. In fact, we need hope to live.
Death is all around these days. It’s not all about numbers it’s about unknowing. We don’t want to live unknowing, and we try to make sure we know, but it doesn’t help. Most of the time we make a mess of it. But here is the bright spot in unknowing: we have hope in the future of God. As Paul says, “For in hope we were saved.” Part of living in the Spirit is having hope. That means looking beyond the everyday to capture the purpose of God. It means changing from believing law can save us to believing that the spirit is the interpreter of law, and that it teaches that loving thy neighbor is the root of all liberation and what we were saved into.
Jesus came to save and the spirit is affirmation of that salvation. We feel it because we are compelled to live it through inspiration. Hope is what drives us to keep moving ahead. It’s a grace that liberates us from harboring past thoughts of futility to the new future that teaches that all is not lost. Groaning, as Paul writes, is the hopeful longing of the surety of the future. Creation groans, hoping for the liberation of its own futility placed upon it because of us. Hope is found within the groaning of liberation from sinfulness. We hope, but as Paul says, “if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Therefore, let us keep our lives above water, standing before God with the joy of living in a world that suffers but that will be liberated.