For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but because of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until the present time… (Romans 8:20-22)
I have an old dog. Jack is almost 15 years old. That’s a long life for a black lab. Owning a dog is more than simply caring for the creature’s need. Jack has been a constant companion and faithful soul. I got him before I married, before kids, before seminary and launching a non-profit. After God, Jack has personally witnessed more of my life changes than any other living being.
He mostly lays around these days; shivering at room temperature. His hearing is virtually gone. His eyes can barely see although they still hold a kind and good expression. He manages to pull himself up to a stand and gingerly walk outside to void a couple times a day. His back legs are terribly atrophied from years of arthritis.
I sit on the floor to hold his head in my lap and rub his tired old muscles. I say, “You’re still the best dog.” He understands.
I remember when my sweet old Jack was young and vibrant. I remember when his coat had more luster and his legs didn’t shake. I remember running with him, playing in rivers, watching him leap to catch frisbees in the air. But now his skin is thin and his ribs stick out. He can’t even squat to relieve himself without collapsing from exertion.
Jack is dying. As he lives, he decays. He is creation groaning together with the whole of creation. And I know to the core of my soul, that his suffering is my fault.
Sin entered the world through humankind, ushering in a curse over the whole of creation. Decay and death are not the way it’s supposed to be. Yet here we all exist: living and decaying. The sin of one infected all humanity with sin. Sin was imputed to us. But Jesus Christ’s righteousness is imputed to all those who believe:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! (Romans 5)
Without Jesus, there is no hope, no freedom from the bonds of sin (Rom. 6). But a relationship with the Lord means that even though current creation decays and wastes away, the faithful will one day live in a new creation (Isaiah 43:18-19; Ephesians 2; Revelation 21:5).
I have faith in Jesus Christ as my savior and I entrust my soul to His care. I don’t know where Jack’s soul will go to after his body fully gives out here on earth. But I trust that God loves His creation more than I do and He has a good plan for all His animals. In the meantime, I will continue to strive to help creation live up to its full potential as I live and decay with them…even if that means doggie diapers for a geriatric pup.
Jack the dog with his family.