“I’m afraid this is the new normal,” responds his cohost Michael Wilbon.
Wilbon’s response might be the mantra for most Americans after the terrorist attack at the April 15 Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts. And for good reason. Perhaps this is the new normal. Perhaps the days of steadfast invulnerability are gone. Perhaps waking up to stories of planes flying into buildings, bombs blowing up at community events, elementary school and movie theater massacres, and poison being sent to government officials in envelopes is the new normal. Perhaps we are not as immune to the terroristic assaults that have plagued foreign nations as we thought.
It is not unreasonable to suggest that this, in fact, is the new normal.
But isn’t this precisely what a world enslaved to corruption looks like? (Rom 8:21) Isn’t this the natural result of a world “subjected to futility?” (Rom 8:20) And who are we, as Americans, to think that we are exempt from the effects of this corruption, as if we are some kind of privileged mogul that lives outside of its jurisdiction?
The scriptures are clear that our world is indeed “subjected to futility” (Rom 8:20). This subjection is ultimately the result of Adam’s sin. “Futility” means “producing no useful result.” According to the Greek context, this lack of result is based on a lack of content, indicating emptiness. In other words, the world cannot help but produce evil because its purity has been overwhelmingly spoiled. Hoping for purity in an evil world is like hoping for fresh milk after weeks of exposure to the west Texas sun. The desired contents just aren’t there. And the contents that are there are a nasty brew of what they ought to be. Can we expect anything less from a world that has Satan as its god? (2 Cor 4:4)
But thankfully, there is hope.
Romans 8:20 does not end with the phrase, “subjected to futility.” It ends with the phrase, “in hope.” An old adage says that a man can live 40 days without food, three days without water, and eight minutes without air, but not a moment without hope. The scriptures state that this hope is that “the creation itself will be set free from its slavery to corruption into freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:21). This means that one day this “new normal” will come to an end and the dictatorship of sin will effectively cease, granting newfound liberty to all who trust in Christ. That is, this current “new normal” will be overcome by an even newer normal. Until then, however, “the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth,” (Rom 8:22) which means that the whole world is in agony, as if it is in labor. But like labor, the pain is not meaningless, but carries with it the hope of new life.
This means that even when Satan, the god of this age, seems to have won the battle, there is a God of the ages that wins the war.
Paul could not have said it any better in writing, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18). Although our present condition is subject to futility, our future is not. Even the worst tragedy that Satan unleashes, whether it be a plane killing thousands of people, a bomb killing and injuring hundreds, a coward spraying bullets at innocent children, or even the natural, timely death of a loved one, there is a hope that we will be set free from these kinds of things.
This hope is Jesus.
So, like Lelisa Desisa Benti, the individual pictured above and winner of the 2013 Boston Marathon, let’s finish the race strong. Let’s focus on hope, not tragedy. Let’s look for the even newer normal that is to come. Let’s look at Jesus.
In the meantime, my prayers go out to those affected by this terrible tragedy, hoping that all can “wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Rom 8:23).