Remember the Future

By James Cornwell

Reading from Romans, 8:18-25

18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.


In The Plague, by Albert Camus, a character is guilty of a crime, but we are never told what it is. As the city settles into a “new normal” under the plague, this character seems to enjoy what is happening. Previously morose and withdrawn, he is now pleasant and convivial. The plague has given him renewed energy and life.

But when the plague begins to subside, his happiness turns to fear. He fears the future that the plague held at bay — now, soon, he will have to face his guilt. To live under plague, Camus writes, is to live only with a past and a present. This character glories in the plagued present for saving him from responsibility to the future, even as it casts countless bodies into the incinerator.

Even prior to COVID-19, our society already lived under plague. The perpetual temptation of this plague is to resign ourselves to an eternal present, one in which humanity’s sins hide in the tenebrous, numbing arms of comfort, entertainment, and the shadow of death, palliating our fears of having to give a full account of our lives and the ways we live. The past does not matter, because there is no future.

It is true that we have cause to fear the future, and, in many ways, it feels safer to silence creation’s groanings with the noise of the Forever Now. But, as those who have been redeemed in Christ, we no longer fear the future, but hope for it. So even as we live under this pandemic, let us not forget our calling to wait with patience for judgment and reconciliation, beginning now and consummating in that future dawn, when we will be called to account, when the plague of death is finally defeated, and when our shared groanings turn to harmonious song.

James Cornwell lives and teaches in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their five children.

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