- Pastor Josh
Groaning for Justice
The other day I noticed a new bird nest in one of our apple trees. Curious, I climbed up a step ladder to take a photo of the eggs inside. As I approached, a little bird shot out, landed on a nearby fence, and chirped at me. It was a chipping sparrow.
The photo I took surprised me. There were two kinds of eggs! After a little research, I learned that the smaller blue eggs belonged to the sparrow, while the larger white-and-brown speckled egg was deposited by a parasitic species: a brown-headed cowbird. The cowbird has an insidious and ingenious strategy. It is what biologists refer to as a brood parasite. Rather than building it's own nest, the cowbird looks for another bird's nest in which to lay its egg. In this case, it chose a chipping sparrow nest. Sometimes, the cowbird will remove some of the native eggs in order to make room for its own. The parasitic egg typically hatches first, and then the sparrows dutifully care for it as their own. Oftentimes, the sparrow's own chicks will die of starvation as the larger cowbird chick takes all the resources.
The injustice of it all was really getting to me. There's so much injustice in the world, and I feel helpless to do much about it. But here was an instance that I could do something about! Something tangible, something immediate, something effective.
The more I read about it, the more I was convinced that the cowbird egg needed to go. My six-year-old daughter, however—having seen how agitated the sparrow was by us just taking a picture—had hesitations. She was concerned that the sparrow would be even more upset if we took one of the eggs away. Props to the Wild Kratts for providing my daughter with a good education—she was right!
It turns out that the sparrows (or warblers, or whichever the host birds may be) see the parasitic egg as their own. There are cases when the cowbird egg has been removed, that the sparrows abandon the nest altogether. Not only that, but sometimes the cowbird who laid the egg keeps watch over her unhatched young, and if anything happens to it, she might ransack the entire nest, almost like she's taking revenge! Besides all that, cowbirds are a native, migratory species, and so it's against federal law to damage their eggs without special circumstances and permission.
So I had to leave the parasitic egg alone, even knowing full well that the unhatched sparrows hardly stood a chance, and knowing that the clueless parents soon would be working overtime to keep their ravenous intruder satisfied. This is all happening right outside my window as I type, and there's nothing I can do about it.
I don't like like it. It's not right.
God agrees, and he has a plan.
Scripture tells us "that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now" (Romans 8:22). Brood-parasitism is one example among innumerable others. The groaning is meant to show us that sin is awful. Our longing for justice and peace show us that we long for a better world than this one—a redeemed world where sin is no more.
That passage in Romans goes on to say that "we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:23). Thankfully, the groaning is going to end. When Jesus returns, all wrongs will be righted, and no more wrongs will occur. Our bodies will be redeemed, and creation will rejoice. Christian, believe it! It's not wrong to fight against injustice now, but we must realize that there's a limit to what we can do. Our emotions, our knowledge, our strength—while all of them are engaged in fighting against injustice, none of them can bring the end result that we long for. Only Jesus can do that. While we protest and argue and make statements on social media and vote, we must do so with humility, recognizing that we are all part of the problem, and none of us is the Savior. Only Jesus is.
In the meantime, we live in hope of that day. "For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience" (Romans 8:24–25). Also in the meantime, we have the help of the Spirit of God, who "helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words....the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God" (Romans 8:26–27).
But redemption is coming!
And hope is here.