Environmentalism: a Spiritual Discipline

[Each month I send out a newsletter to all the parents of youth at our church... this month's topic was environmentalism. The following is the article I wrote for the newsletter]

When God created the world in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible he took joy in it. Each aspect of creation was a masterpiece of God’s creativity. As God was creating, bringing harmony out of chaos, he specifically looked upon each of his works and pointed out its’ goodness. He created something, he saw that it was good… he created something else, he saw that it was good… he creates until he has created everything and when he looks upon the culmination of this creation, when he sees all that he had made he calls it “very good.” God loves his creation; he loved it from the very start. And the crown of all his creation is people. It says that God created humankind in his own image and the job he gave to people, humankind’s great vocation in this very good creation is to “subdue” and reign over the earth, to reflect God’s loving and creative image into God’s creation. The world was in harmony and people were the keepers of that harmony. That’s how God created things and that’s the world God is restoring, that’s where the story of the world’s redemption is headed.

I had a youth pastor when I was in junior high (at a different church) who didn’t understand why people cared about the environment. “It’s all gonna burn anyway,” he said—and he was serious. He believed that essentially God’s plan was to scarp this creation, throw it to the trash, and give us a different one. The problem with his perspective, the problem with his vision of the future is that it doesn’t seem to match God’s vision of redemption.

We call God’s vision for the future the Kingdom of God and in 1 Chronicles 29:11 it says, "Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom.” The world is God’s kingdom and God’s future hope is for this world. In Romans 8:18-22 it says, “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are… with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.” Our destiny is caught up in the world’s destiny. The world itself is waiting for us to get our act together, for God’s people to do what it was they were created to do—to live in harmony with one another and with creation. God’s story is a story that’s bigger than just you and me. God’s plan for salvation is a plan to restore all of creation, to reverse the curse of sin, and to take back the whole world in love and justice. Our vision for the future needs to match God’s if we want to be a part of God’s work of redemption.

Environmentalism is a spiritual discipline, working to be who God created us to be. It’s not just a political issue, it’s not just the “Christian thing” to do, it’s God’s way for us to be human. It’s part of God’s way for us to be part of his work of redemption.

In Revelation 21-22, in the last chapters of the Bible, like the first, we are shown a beautiful image of creation—a creation, once damaged by sin but now gloriously renewed. It says, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1). “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them” (Rev. 21:3-4). “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him” (Rev 22:3). That’s God’s vision for the future—a world no longer threatened by destruction. And we are called to live as a foretaste of God’s vision for the future.

Destruction is part of the curse, redemption is God’s plan. God is about reversing the curse. God loves creation, and so a Christian does too.