Caring for Creation
by R. Jerome Boone

 

T

he Creation story (Gen. 1 and 2) emphasizes the role of humankind as God’s partner, or steward, in caring for and managing the creation:  

So God created man in His oI remember a God moment many years ago when I first realized the significance of the creation. As I was driving west to Colorado, my car crested a hill and I saw the majestic Rocky Mountains on the horizon. It was an awesome sight, and caring for creation is an awesome responsibility.  

Creation care is a controversial subject within the Christian community. Historically, Pentecostals have shown little concern for Planet Earth. It is perhaps the result of a Christian faith that emphasized other important aspects of the mission of God─such as evangelism, discipleship, and spirituality. Some might even say the historical Pentecostal focus on the end times leaves little room for concern for the present creation.

However the lack of concern is explained, most Pentecostals have never heard a sermon from their pastor about creation care. So, the essential question is, why should Christians be concerned about creation care? There are three Biblical reasons every Christian Should care for God’s creation.  

1. God’s purpose for Humankind Includes Caring for Creation

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (1:27-28 NKJV).

The fulfillment of God’s purpose for humankind is evident in Adam and Eve’s responsibilities in the Garden of Eden. The creation needed to be managed even before sin entered the world.

The entry of sin into God’s world had a huge impact. Its corrupting power changed the core of human nature as well as the natural laws of creation. In Romans 8:18-25, the apostle Paul describes the coming radical transformation of the corrupted creation as an event for which the world is “longing” and “eagerly” waiting.

Meanwhile, between the fall of humankind and Christ’s second coming, God is at work in the world redemptively to counter the effects of sin and evil. God’s people are called to join with Him as agents of redemption. God’s purpose for humankind is preserved in the Christian commitment to care for creation.  

2. We Can Express Love for God by Caring for Creation

The Great Commandment is well known in the Christian community: “Jesus said . . . You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the first and great commandment” (Matt 22:37-38 NKJV). This was not a new commandment revealed by Jesus, but was one of the earliest commandments given to Israel through Moses (Deut. 6:5). So, how do we demonstrate love for God in the holistic manner described in the Gospels?

God is characterized in Scripture as both Creator and Redeemer. Most often, we worship God as Redeemer, celebrating our salvation through Jesus Christ. Our tendency is to discuss salvation in the narrow perspective of deliverance of humankind from sin. The rest of creation is either ignored or seen as the background of God’s redemptive work.

However, the Bible begins (Gen. 1─2) and ends with a focus on God as Creator (Rev. 21─22). The apostle John begins his Gospel account with an emphasis on Jesus as Creator (1:1-3), and the apostle Paul as well describes Jesus as Creator (Col. 1:16). Worship must include worship of God as the Creator of the heavens and earth and all that is in them.

The worship of God as Creator must be complemented by a discernment of God’s will for the creation. The goal of all creation is expressed in the prophetic revelation of Isaiah 65:17-25. The fulfillment of that prophecy will be a time of global peace in every realm of creation. All of life will flourish when the effects of sin and evil are abolished.  

Isaiah’s prophecy mirrors the prophetic word of Revelation 21 and 22. God will redeem all creation and restore it to its original perfection. The Biblical vision of the redeemed creation should give direction to our work in creation care. We must discern what we can do in the power of the Spirit toward God’s vision for creation.  

Worship of God as Creator must be accompanied by prayer and action. God is at work in the world all around us. In prayer, we can discern where and how God is working in order to get involved. We need the empowerment of God’s Spirit to participate in Kingdom work.  

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us how to pray and how to work as we strive to actualize God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven.” The combination of worship, prayer, and action will lead to the kind of spiritual transformation that enhances our relationship with God and illuminates our work of creation care.  

3. Caring for Creation Shows Love to Our Neighbor

The Great Commandment is really two commandments compressed together. The first commandment—love God—was discussed above. The second commandment is all about love for others. Like the commandment to love God, the commandment to love others was not a new revelation. It too was given through Moses (Lev. 19:18). The two commandments are so interrelated that Jesus made them inseparable.  

Historically, Pentecostals have shown little concern for Plant Earth.

The divine truth is no one can truly love God and not love others as well. Someone may say they love God while not loving others, but the statement is self-deception, not the truth (1 John 4:20-21).  

The relationship between the Great Commandment and creation care is abundantly clear in the so-called “land laws” of the Pentateuch. God’s commandments for Israel regarding the land reveal God’s concern for the well-being of all creation. Most obvious among the land laws was the requirement for Sabbath years (every seventh year) and Jubilee years (every 50th year).  The Sabbath and Jubilee years were times of rest and renewal (Lev. 25). The land could not be planted or harvested by the owners.  

The “rest” extended to every aspect of the Israelite community: landowners, farm animals, workers, and servants. The mandated “rest” was a time of human flourishing. Slaves were set free and all debts were annulled (Deut. 15). The Jubilee year had the special requirement for the restoration of all land to the divinely allotted owners.  

Gleaning was another important land law (Deut. 24:19-22). The Law required all landowners to share their harvest with the poor and needy. Landowners could only harvest their crops one time. After the owner’s primary harvest, any needy person in the country could come onto the land legally and harvest what remained.

The humanitarian component of the gleaning law reveals God’s concern for the poor. As the ultimate landowner of Canaan, God had the authority to mandate how the land would be used. The story of Ruth is a beautiful example of how God provided for the poor through the gleaning law (Ruth 1-4).  

Caring for God’s Creation

The recognition of the significance of creation for God’s plan of salvation must be an aspect of responsible Christian discipleship. The redemptive work of God will climax at the second coming of Jesus Christ and the full manifestation of God’s kingdom on earth.  

While we do not know when this will occur, we do know it is the end game of God’s eternal plan. As Christians, we should participate in the more holistic vision of God’s plan of salvation, which includes all of creation. The creation produces the resources that support life. Those resources must be protected and managed.

A good place for any of us to join in the preservation of creation is to practice the three R’s: reduce the use of earth’s resources; reuse products instead of discarding them; and recycle materials that can save earth’s resources.

God is a God of life. God’s will is for all of creation to experience well-being. Our commitment must be to fulfill the Great Commandment, loving both God and others, through caring for God’s creation.  

 

 

R. Jerome Boone, D.Min., is professor of Old Testament and Christian formation at Lee University. jboone@leeuniversity.edu


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