Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Creation Matters

My scooter gets 70 miles to the gallon, and I usually only have to fill it up once every 3-4 weeks. I started riding it every day to my office and back, and around town, several months ago, before gas prices became the "driving" force in our American lives. People smiled as I drove to church on Sunday, my suit coat buttoned, and my tie trailing over my shoulder in the wind. They smiled even more on week days when I stopped by the market on the ride home and filled my "trunk" with veggies and bread and other staples we needed. The scooter became the source of laughter for my friends and neighbors, and they never tired of mocking me and my little Yamaha.

Now that's all changed. Gas prices have magically transformed my scooter from "mockable" to admirable. My college age son Andy even asked if he could drive it for the week I was out of town. He argued that it does better on gas than his Jeep Cherokee. I still think he has recognized the "cool" factor that comes with scootering.

But let's be clear. I didn't start riding the scooter just to save money. I actually did it to do my part to limit the pollutants I, and every other driver, pump into the air. I also have been an avid re-cycler for years, and this summer planted and am harvesting my own organic garden. I've taken other steps to become a good steward of the earth as well, and in some ways, I guess I've become what some might call a "tree-hugger." But, here's where I want you to understand a fundamental difference between me and those who are writing the books calling our nation to "go green." This is important, so please keep reading:

While I believe in, and am trying more and more to practice "green" living and buying practices, the difference between me and those who hug the trees is in the area of motive and goal. This difference is best explained in understanding two terms: eco-friendly, and eco-redemptive.

Eco-friendly: This term describes a life-style where the person lives in such a way that there is harmony between them and the earth. Their motive for "going green" is to preserve th earth - its air and water and vegetation - for future generations of humanity. In other words, we take care of the earth because ultimately, it will take care of us. The motive is our personal well-being, and the goal is an environment that will provide an arena of health for coming generations. And, there is actually much wisdom in this. The problem is that, like everything else mankind comes up with, it stops short of the real purpose behind all things: to make the manifold majesty and glory of God more readily seen and appreciated. This must be true of our every "green" action as well.

That's where "eco-redemptive" comes in. I made this term up myself, so if you hate it, or think it's cheesy, I take full blame. But here's what I think: The grand reason I live in ways that protect and restore the environment is that all creation is supposed to declare the glory of our great Creator God. Simply put, I want clean water and air because polluted water and air don't make a very good advertisement for the majesty of the One who created it. So, my motive in "going green" is not only my health, but the beauty of the earth, and my goal is not only the preservation of a healthy environment, but the desire for this beauty to more fully declare and reflect God's glory. I choose to live in such a way that the earth is "redeemed", and thus, can more fully declare the glory of God. I don't think the earth is the what we should be "hugging" or adoring or worshiping. Rather, in caring for the earth, I am trying to love God, to bring praise to him.

Let me try to describe "eco-redemptive" as a label in another way. As a pastor, I have invested my life in the mission of Jesus Christ, through whom individuals can be rescued from brokenness, escape the pollution of sin, and come once again to reflect the glory of their Father in heaven. We often refer to this as partnering with Jesus Christ in the "plan of redemption." God, through the Gospel, is "redeeming" polluted lives, and turning them into samples of his craftsmanship (Paul, in Eph. 2:10 says we are "his workmanship", his intentional work of art!). Stay with me here!

I am convinced that the redemptive plan of God - most vitally seen in the rescue of sinners from the domain of darkness, and their transfer into the kingdom of God's dear Son Jesus (see: Col. 1:13,14) - in its broadest context includes all of creation. Paul supports this in Romans 8:20-23, where he says that sin plunged all creation into futility, in which it is now groaning, waiting until it will be "set free from its slavery to corruption." This actually parallels the plight of those of us who follow Christ. We are being set free from the power of sin. More and more we are being "reformatted" according to the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). In a practical sense, we are being "redeemed" even though our final "redemption" and permanent standing in grace has been accomplished forever by Jesus Christ. This is part of the "already - not yet" idea that in Christ we are recognized as righteous, while in our everyday practice that righteousness is to be more and more worked out. Here's the bottom line: I think the same must be true of all of creation.

We know that one day, all creation will once again declare the glory of God, when the new heavens and new earth are a reality. Yet, just as our lives can increasingly demonstrate the glory of God as we more and more come to throw off the pollution of sin, so also creation can become more and more a tribute to its creator as it is increasingly returned to the condition in which it was originally created.

Now, I know that we can't rid the world of sin. We can't stop death, or decay, or many of the ongoing consequences of living in a broken world. But, just as we can live lives that are more and more modeled after Jesus, so also we can help return our environment to a state of beauty through life style choices that preserve, protect and enhance the natural, renewable beauty and strength of God's creation. And why do we do this, as those who follow Jesus? Because it is our goal that all creation will testify to the majesty and power and love of our Creator God. We choose to live in such a way that the environment is redeemed, so that the Redeemer can be praised. This is what I mean when I speak of living in ways that are "eco-redemptive." We are not only about renewing the earth; we are about renewing the earth so that all creation will shout the glory of God.

If you are aware of the controversies surrounding environmental issues and Christianity, you may have read that many secular environmentalists blame the Christian ethic for much of our present environmental crisis. And in many ways, they are right to do so. For centuries, the church has "camped out" on the command of God in Genesis 1 to "rule" and "exercise dominion" over the created world. Unfortunately, too many people - both inside and outside the church - have used this interpretation as an excuse for the selfish, tyrannical abuse of nature without regard to its original creative purpose. Instead of "stewarding" creation for the glory of God, they have corrupted and polluted it as a consequence of their lust for consumption. But, clearly, God never meant it to be so. He put Adam into the garden to "tend" it, not trash it (Genesis 2:15).

And perhaps, after reading this, you're just going to put these thoughts off in the margins of your life, and tell yourself that there are bigger problems you could focus on, and you'd be right, I suppose. But let me offer this: Proverbs 3:6 calls the wise to "acknowledge God in all your ways."

That verse is one I've known for years, and yet I think I am seeing it for the first time. It is calling us to acknowledge that God has an interest in all of our "ways." In context, it is talking about roads, or paths as the "ways" down which we travel. It is talking about the "walk of life" and the roads we choose. God wants to be recognized as interested and invested in every road we take, in "all of our ways." That means that no path you walk is to little, or too insignificant to matter to God. He has a vital interest in every small, tiny, winding path you walk down every day. No area of your life escapes either his notice, or his command. I am convinced that he wants us to acknowledge him in our environmental choices, in our food choices, in our buying choices, in our health choices, in our leisure choices, in our financial choices . . . you get the picture. "In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

The life that is ever conscious of the face of God will find that the pleasure of God is abiding, even as the glory of God is reflected before a watching world. And choosing to be "eco-redemptive" is an area that deserves our intentional investment in righteousness.

Hope this helps,



At 7:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

That scooter isn't very green! :( I have been in the white cloud behind it in the church parking lot as it drove by. In fact, an officer of the law that was with me, joked that he could write you a ticket for being a "gross polluter!" Never mind the tail light that is out.

Why is that most of the so called green people in politics and society are so in consistent? I am always leary of the green crusaders and the "I was green before it was cool crusaders!" :)

Keepin' you honest And yes Creation does Matter!

At 11:24 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Just for a random request: you once said in a sermon (several years ago, before you turned 50) that you had strong feelings about righteous political involvement. I have always respected the quality of your thinking, but never took you up on your invitation to ask you more about it. Now I live several hundred miles away, and I don't get back to Corona very often, so when my wife told me you had a blog, I thought I would take a look. I was hoping that I might find a post that would have attached to it civil, biblically based, well thought out responses on a variety of issues such as the sanctity of life, war, affirmative action, etc. This is certainly a big request, and civil, well thought out, biblically based arguments on these subjects seem rare, but I for one would enjoy such a venue, and I wonder if this might not be it...

Nick Schuller


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