Sometimes I find it useful to remind myself why I do the things I do — why I go through the effort of hanging my laundry, turning off the A/C, and refraining from constantly updating my gadgets. Other times, I find I need renewed motivation to take on new practices and habits that will help protect the environment. That’s why I’m revisiting some of my earlier thoughts on Creation Care.
In my About Page, I explain that one of the key things I want to explore on Becoming Peculiar is creation care. Some Christians might find it odd to place so much emphasis on caring for the environment, so I thought I’d devote a post to explaining why it’s central to my theology.
In recent years, the term “Creation Care” has begun to pop up and grow in importance in some Christian circles. But until recently, talking about the environment hasn’t been high on most denominations’ priorities list. After all, what does saving the rainforest have to do with the Great Commandment (“Love the Lord you God…”) and the Great Commission (“Go and make disciples…”)?
For some Christians, protecting the environment seems like an obvious element in following Jesus. For others, though, it’s an irrelevant distraction from the important work of evangelism.
Here are just a few reasons why I believe protecting the planet is vital to a Christ-centered life.
1. Saving the planet means saving human lives.
I’ve heard Christians scoff at those who concern themselves with “the environment,” as if “the environment” was some lifeless, abstract thing distinct and separate from us humans. But the truth is, “the environment” is (among other things) the place where other humans live. It’s the air we breathe, the water we drink, the plants and animals we eat, and the ground on which we build our homes. As E.O. Wilson writes, “Only in the last moment in history has the delusion arisen that people can flourish apart from the rest of the living world.”
Taking care of the planet, then, is the same thing as taking care of other people’s homes, and keeping their food, water, and air safe.
One thing that all Christians can (hopefully) agree upon is that we’re called to care for one another. Jesus teaches us to love our neighbours. Our neighbours include the people who live downstream from our water pollution, downwind from our air pollution, and downhill from our soil erosion. I submit that our neighbours also include our descendents and the descendents of our neighbours.
Caring for the planet is perhaps one of the most important ways, then, we can care for our neighbours. As Wendell Berry says, “It is impossible to care for each other more or differently than we care for the earth.”
Another way of looking at the issue is to acknowledge that Jesus doesn’t want us to poison or starve one another. But that’s essentially what we’re doing – indirectly — when we drive our cars, buy things made in factories, and eat industrialized food: we’re filling the air, water and soil with hazardous toxins that make people sick.
Followers of Christ must work hard to live lives that do not contribute to the pollution of our planet — and even work to reverse the damage we’ve already done.
2. God made and loves the world, so we ought to, too.
God declared creation good before we humans even entered the scene.
Christianity is unique in that unlike other religions which deprecate matter as inferior to spirit, the Bible celebrates matter: the sun, the moon, the earth, the water, and everything else in the universe is good, without or without us.
The earth is so important to God that his very first commandment to us humans includes taking care of the earth and animals. It’s of central importance to him, and therefore ought to be to us, too.
When we care for God’s creation, we express our love for him, because we’re loving what he loves.
3. Jesus died to save all of creation.
As we read in Colossians 1:19-20, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (emphasis mine).
In Mark 16:15, Jesus tells his disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” In his letter to the Romans, Paul says that “The creation itself will be liberated 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 as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:21-22). And in Christ’s future Kingdom the rest of creation will be transformed into a new earth (Rev. 21:1).
If Jesus died for all of creation, I think we can trust that he wants us to show as much concern for the rest of the world, too.
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So a key part of my Christianity involves driving my car less and riding my bike more. It involves growing my own food rather than buying processed, packaged food shipped from overseas. It involves shopping at thrift stores rather than the mall. It means using cloth diapers and line-drying my clothes.
These are all ways that I attempt to love my neighbor, show God that I respect and value his beautiful handiwork, and participate in Jesus’ reconciliatory work between God and creation.
I feel like I’m still forgetting a whole bunch. What’s still missing from my list? In what other ways is planet-care relevant to following Jesus?
*Reposted from the archives.*
Image courtesy of David Ohmer.