Creation Care - Part Two
A lot has changed in this world over the course of my lifetime. The yearly global production of plastics has increased by almost 600%. Over a million new synthetic chemicals have been developed. Microplastics have come to permeate oceans, rivers, and soil throughout the world. And a floating patch of garbage twice the size of Texas has formed in the Pacific Ocean.
When you consider that it takes an estimated 450 years for a plastic bottle to decompose in the ocean, you can see that this is a problem.
How should Christians react to these changes in our world?
In the first blog in this series, I suggested that we ought to respond with open minds. In this blog, I want to make the case that we should also respond with broken hearts.
Just as denial is an inappropriate response to reports of environmental destruction, so is the response of complacency. Those who love God should grieve deeply over what has happened to our world.
The Bible says, “The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it” (Ps. 24:1). It tells us that God “laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of [his] hands” (Ps. 102:25). The Creator delights in his creation, having pronounced it to be “very good” (Gen. 1:31). He personally cares for even the smallest plants and animals (Ps. 36:6; Matt. 6:26-30). Every detail of creation is designed to declare the excellency of the Creator, speaking to us of his glory, goodness, and power (Ps. 19:1-6; Acts 14:17; Rom. 1:20).
It is inconceivable that people who love God would not love what he loves – that they would not delight in what brings him glory and joy. If God loves his creation, we should, too. “Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them” (Ps. 119:2).
When we see God’s handiwork being destroyed, we should lament. Jeremiah the prophet wrote, “I will weep and wail for the mountains and take up a lament concerning the wilderness grasslands. They are desolate and untraveled, and the lowing of cattle is not heard. The birds have all fled and the animals are gone” (Jer. 9:10). The devastation of God’s creation brought tears to the eyes of this godly man.
The call to lament is amplified when we remember that every corner of our world was created for the pleasure and glory of Jesus. Colossians 1:16 says that “all things have been created through him and for him.” Every tree, every mountain, every bird, every fish was created with one purpose in mind, to bring glory to the eternal Son of God. How can we who are called to live for Christ’s glory not be broken-hearted when his creation is destroyed?
Our hearts are also broken when we consider the impact of environmental destruction on our neighbors. Study after study has revealed that those most deeply impacted by air pollution, by deforestation, and by the lack of clean water are the poor. It is estimated that as many as 130 million people will be forced into poverty in the next decade because of climate change. Jesus called us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31), certainly this includes a call to care that our neighbors have unpolluted soil to till and unsullied water to drink.
To grieve without changing is a charade. God calls us to repent over the destruction of his world. The ancient Israelites were instructed to care for the land by allowing it to lie fallow every seventh year. They were warned that if they did not do this, they would be banished from the land until the soil could recover (Lev. 26:34-35). Similarly, the New Testament warns that, in the final judgment, God will “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:18). Patriarch Bartholomew, the Archbishop of Constantinople, said, “To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God.” The only correct response to sin is to repent.
Of course, repentance over the destruction of the earth cannot merely take place on the individual level. I might stop using plastic straws and switch to low energy light bulbs, but unless there are radical changes in the industries and economies of the world, my actions will do little good. Our repentance must be done corporately.
An awareness of the need for corporate repentance should lead Christians to be generally supportive of governmental policies designed to protect the environment. There may, of course, be specific policies that are poorly designed. These may be opposed in good conscience. But if believers find that their knee-jerk response to every suggestion of environmental reform is to the reject the idea out of hand, they may want to examine their hearts. Pope Francis has written, “On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views. But we need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair.”
In Scripture, whenever people are broken-hearted and repentant over their sin, God always responds with mercy. We can expect the same response from God if we repent and grieve over our corporate sin of destroying his handiwork. As believers in Jesus Christ, we should be leading the world down this path of repentance.
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