I am reminded of a story about a snail that got beaten up by two turtles. When he went to the police they asked him, “Did you get a good look at the turtles that beat you up?” He said, “I don’t know, it all happened so fast…” Polluting our world is happening so fast.
Belatedly, the world is waking up to the realization that when God told Adam and Eve to “subdue” the earth, he didn’t mean pollute it, poison it or turn it into a wasteland. And Christians are waking up to the idea that conserving “this fragile earth, our island home,” is an essential part of good stewardship.
We should also be aware by now that the global family is in this together. Yes, we can be alarmed by the cutting and burning of the Amazon rain forest and its impact on the world’s climate. But save some of that concern for the leveling of the forests in our own Pacific Northwest.
God put Adam and Eve in a garden and said, ‘I prepared a place for you. You are to conserve it, that’s ecology, and cultivate it, which means perfect it. I want you to make it better, not tear it up.’ It makes me wonder how we will do in the next century? Jesus said, In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1) Will we take any better care of our next home then we have this one?
In the early 1800’s Henry David Thoreau writes, “Men think that it is essential that the nation have commerce, and export ice, and talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour . . . but whether we should live like baboons or like men, is a little uncertain.
Our lives are to be a spiritual calling. We are not just to waste away 80 or 90 years of our lives. Why is the spot of red in the forest so beautiful when we think it’s a flower, and so horrible when we find it’s a candy wrapper? Because we know that it is not our home. There comes to all people ultimately the awareness that this earth is the wrong place.
And that the earth is merely a waiting room for our permanent home. C. S. Lewis once said, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither.” God made the sun — it gives heat, light, guidance. God made the moon — it gives tidal pull, moonbeams, decoration. God made the stars — they give beauty, direction, a point of orientation, awe. God made the air — it gives oxygen, life, balmy breezes. God made the clouds — they give shade, beauty, rain, cooling. God made the earth — it gives grandeur, solidity, resources, gems, nourishment. God made humanity, more specifically, God made you — You give — What?
A man by his sin may waste himself, which is to waste that which on earth is most like God. This is man’s greatest tragedy, God’s heaviest grief. When God set up the land for the Israelites, He gave us some insight about His feeling of the land. This is the best of the land and must not pass into other hands, because it is holy to the LORD. (Ezek 48:14) In the Law God reveals, A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. (Lev 27:30)
What is at the root of our problem? Humanity has to conquer! The root of the (ecological) crisis is the will to dominate, and that this desire derives theologically from the concept among Christians of a dominating God. The tower of Babel, was mankind’s rebellion. Humans, seeing themselves in the image of this dominating God, thought they were meant to dominate nature. We forget that the earth is not only God’s property; it is also God’s presence.
The Sabbath is wise environmental politics. “Israel is given the land, not the land to Israel.” I have never believed that we were to have domination of the Earth. I believe we were set on Earth to be stewards, not masters of the created order; managers under the owner, God.
Mere longing for a better world can be a lazy person’s way to face life. There is an old story of a farmer who said lightning struck an old shed and thus saved him the trouble of tearing it down, and rain washed off his car and saved him that chore too. When asked what he was doing now, he replied, “Waiting for an earthquake to shake the potatoes out of the ground.”
Reported to be seen on a sign outside a church in Houston, Texas: ‘The meek shall inherit the earth.’ Underneath it, a graffitist had scrawled “But not the mineral rights.” We can no longer afford to be meek when it comes to the world we live in. We worry about cost, the loss of jobs, and higher prices. Maybe the more important fear is the loss of life, birth defects and not having a planet that is worth living on.
I believe we can live on earth according to the teachings of Jesus, and that the greatest happiness will come to the world when man obeys His commandment “Love ye one another.” I believe that the welfare of each is bound up in the welfare of all. “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:9)