I didn’t grow up inside a culture of respect for the earth. “Earth” as a totality – flora and fauna, beauty, wildness, and wonder.
In my childhood we used disposable products with abandon; old car oil was often poured out on the ground, and we never considered the impact that disposed plastics would have on our world. Pesticides caused a decline in bird populations. Oceans started to become big toilets where our detritus was flushed when it rained. And, worst of all, people became as disposable as our throw away products.
As a child I never heard churches or anyone else, for that matter, talk about the responsibility we each have for the stewardship of everyone and everything on or planet. More often than not, the big belief was that the globe was just as disposable as the red Solo cup thrown on the ground.
Anyone who did express a concern about all this was dismissed as a tree hugger or ecological extremist. Certainly there were some who might be called that, but the vast majority just wanted to make sure that we didn’t “foul” our home.
Over time my opinion changed, and it really changed when I started to pay attention to what God has been doing, along with the place that the earth occupied in His work. My awakening began with the Creation story. When God said of the earth, “It is good.”
It makes me wonder why we think God would quit caring about something He called good in the beginning of time? More than that, how could humans treat with disgust something which God regarded as winsome and desirable? I have concluded that God didn’t change His mind about the Creation.
In fact, the last book of the Bible ends with the vision of the City of God coming down and God taking up residence among humans on a pristine earth. “What a vision that is!”
If one agrees with this view of the earth’s place in the mind of God, then it opens up some important questions about how that changes human responsibility. I’d like to suggest that there are three demands made on us if we love and respect what God created.
- The first is respect. Respect for humans is uppermost. Humans from the youngest to the oldest. This means living in such a way as to ease and preserve the life of everyone encountered – everyone. Clearly, such respect would end war. How can you or anyone kill someone that God loves? Also respect for everyTHING that is on the planet.
- The second guideline is awe. It is common to see someone looking harder at his/her smart phone than at the beautiful landscape before them. God intended for us to be inspired and rejuvenated by this great earth. Awe is a recognition of beauty and grandeur. Awe is inspiring and satisfying in ways a smart phone could never be.
- Preservation is the third guideline. One who has an understanding that the earth has limitations, works to protect those resources as much as possible. People who rape the land with strip mining and deforestation do not grasp that they are destroying something that God created and loved.
I know that a lot of people believe that it is “pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by” but what if it’s not that but really here-and-now? It’s kinda like the old guy that was asked about what he had learned from life and said, “If I knew that I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”
Whether a person will dump plastics in the ocean depends to a large degree on whether they respect the lives that depend on the ocean, are in awe of the ocean’s beauty, and realize that the ocean is a finite commodity that must be preserved.