by Jason Chatraw
What are you doing to care for creation?
While watching yet another news clip of environmental activists carrying signs and chanting at policy makers, I simply rolled my eyes. “Tree huggers,” I scoffed.
But then while hanging out with Tri Robinson, a pastor and author of Saving God’s Green Earth, my view changed. It’s not that I was ignorant of the dangers of pollution, but I’d never been challenged by a fellow believer to really care for (or about) creation — until that night.
I learned that the Bible makes a compelling case for environmental care and conservation. And that God’s people should be the ones leading the way.
“My Christian journey is being shaped by seeing God’s care for His creation. I want to participate with Him, and it has begun to influence every aspect of my faith,” Robinson says. “No longer can I view the environment as a political issue. Now it must become part of my faith, enveloped by the way I seek to live as a follower of Jesus.”
THINK ABOUT IT
Robinson is right: The environment is more than a political issue. Because “the earth and everything in it … belong to the LORD” (Psalm 24:1) and because God gave us the responsibility to “work it and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15), we cannot ignore our planet.
“The earth is to be treasured by us humans as a gift from God,” says Laura Deacon, information officer for Christian Ecology Link, a multi-denominational organization for Christians concerned about the environment. “To mistreat the earth through exploitation, harm, overuse, and overpopulation is to overlook the fact that the earth belongs to God, first and foremost, and is due respect.”
While some may argue that we are to hold dominion over the earth, Dr. Walter Brown, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, suggests that the Old Testament calls us to the role of caretaker as well. “When you look at the covenant emphasis, when God promises blessing to Abraham, the promise of land is given,” Brown explains.
“The implication with that gift is that God owns the land. What runs through the Old Testament law is this idea that God owns the land, and people are stewards of that. The more you understand the Bible, the more you realize Christians ought to be leading environmental causes,” he adds.
“No longer can I view the environment as a political issue. Now it must become a part of my faith, enveloped by the way I seek to live as a follower of Jesus.” — Tri Robinson, author of Saving God’s Green Earth
WHAT DO YOU CARE?
So much of ministry is about building bridges into other people’s lives, meeting them where they are, and showing them the relevance of a relationship with Christ. When we put our beliefs about environmental stewardship into action, we are not only following God’s call; we are also opening an outlet to connect with non-believers.
Dr. Paul Rothrock, an environmental sciences professor at Taylor University in Indiana, notes that Christians make an impression on others when the world can see them caring for the environment, “and we’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do, even if our reasons vary from theirs,” he says. “Eventually, you’ll get an opportunity to share your reasons for caring for creation.”
In his book, Robinson also picks up on this idea, relating it to Jesus’ final command. “The more I study God’s call for us to steward His creation,” he says, “the more convinced I am that it also rests perfectly within the confines of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Through becoming faithful stewards of creation, we are presented with an opportunity to share the gospel.”
The bottom line: As followers of Christ, we have the responsibility of environmental care and conservation. And if we would commit to caring for our own little corner of the earth, it would make a difference in our world in more ways than one.
Jason Chatraw is a small groups pastor in Atlanta and the co-author of Saving God’s Green Earth.
Act on It
If you want to get in on this environmental care thing, try the following and watch for opportunities to share the reasons you’re helping to protect God’s earth.
1. Start a neighborhood-recycling program. Find willing neighbors to devise a collection process. Then notify your neighbors when you’ll be collecting recycled goods. It will give you a chance to serve as well as start conversations.
2. Collect old cell phones to support ministries. Share with friends your plan and ask if they’d like to contribute their old cell phones. For more information, visit charitablerecycling.com.
3. Adopt a park or highway. Encourage neighbors and friends to adopt a park or a nearby highway for trash cleanup on a regular basis. It’s a great way to do something in your community.
4. Carpool. Not only will you be reducing the number of unhealthy emissions in the air, you’ll also gain time to share your life with someone.
5. Recycle at work. Gather up the office’s empty ink jet and toner cartridges, and ship them for free to Recycle 4 Charity (recycle4charity.com). Your efforts will keep ink and plastic out of landfills and raise money for charities (like Habitat for Humanity).
6. Get involved in local projects. Plenty of conservation and environmental organizations have workday opportunities. Take advantage of these in your city and get to know some local environmentalists.
You’ll find more information on environmental care at the following sites: