Many of us will be aware of the ways in which humanity is impacting the planet detrimentally. From the rising of sea levels to the pollution of the sea with plastic bags and effluent; from the increase in global temperatures to the melting of ice caps and retreat of glaciers; from the rate of extinction of species being as high as in previous mass extinctions in the fossil record, mankinds impact on the planet is great and frequently negative. How are we to respond as Christians? Are we to write off any attempts to conserve nature, reduce carbon emissions and pollutants and be greener as rather ill-informed natural spirituality? Are we to embrace vegetarianism and tree hugging as the way to be in tune with nature? What is a Christian response?
Over the next couple of Sundays at both the youth service this evening and in our Sunday sermon next Sunday, we will be considering the beginnings of a Christian response. This fits into three categories:
- Creation – We know that God made us to be those who rule creation (Genesis 1:28) and care for it (Genesis 2:15). We are those made in God’s image and so those who have power and responsibility over and for, nature. If we have just evolved, it makes no sense for us to be responsible over nature. Only if we are created with this power and responsibility, can we make sense of our responsibility for every species.
- Fall – We know that the result of mankind’s sin, was the judgement of death on Adam and Eve, but also God’s curse of both the animal world and the ground, which would produce thorns and thistles rather than abundant food. Nature was not going to be benign any more. Similarly, when God judged humanity in Noah’s flood, this judgement extended to the animals and birds. The rebellion of mankind has had cosmic and global significance. It is no surprise that our greed and materialism has brought destruction to the planet.
- Redemption – With the coming of Jesus Christ, he not only died to forgive us our sins and raise us to new life, he died to “reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven” Colossians 1:20. So there will be a new creation, which is the place of the children of God as Romans 8 declares.
Where does this leave us? Firstly, it is distinctively Christian to believe that we are responsible for the planet. Yes, this may have been highjacked by other world views, but we should not abandon the truth simply because it has been. Secondly, it is sinful to live in ways that destroy the planet, even though we will never fully be able to avoid the judgement of God on it. Rather, we are to work for the renewal of the earth, because it will be renewed when Jesus returns. Just as we believe that because justice will be done when Jesus returns, we work for justice, so, because we believe that the earth will be made new, so we will be those who support care for the planet, be this effort at the conservation of species, reducing our carbon emissions or recycling and affecting policy of waste disposal. We believe in saving the planet, because it has already been saved through the death of Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection will lead to a new earth, as well as a new heaven, a renewal that delivers the earth from groaning and decay (Romans 8). We believe in a new life and a new earth for which we hope, and work towards as part of our worship.
With much love in our redeeming Lord, John Parker