Romans 8 has always been one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. (By “always,” I mean “in the relatively recent period of time since the Bible started seeming like something alive, instead of a dusty book from my childhood.”)
It is lovely in the NIV and the other translations I read frequently growing up, but it takes on a new, wing-sprouting, soul-soaring life in The Message. If you’re not familiar with the translation, Bono (of all people) summed it up pretty beautifully in an interview with Rolling Stone:
“There’s a translation of the Scriptures — the New Testament and the Books of Wisdom— that this guy Eugene Peterson has undertaken. It has been a great strength to me. He’s a poet and a scholar, and he’s brought the text back to the tone in which the books were written.” (x)
Below is the Message translation of Romans 8:12-29, with some (bolded) emphasis of my own.
There is joy beyond anything I can describe in this new life, adventurous life, free of grave-tending and expectant before God.
There is more in these verses than I can comprehend –every time I read them, something new rises to the top. And I’m moved — moved like a revolution, not like a Hallmark card. I read these words and something shifts in me. Living and active.
“So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent? There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us — an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him.
That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored.“
None of my words could follow that up. Glory.