Up until recently, the term “going green” probably wouldn’t have meant much to a lot of us. We didn’t have little squiggly light bulbs that use 25 percent less energy and last 10 times longer than conventional ones. We wouldn’t have known what to do with those blue boxes that we keep in our homes for all our glass, plastic, and paper waste. Global warming was a hot summer, hybrid cars were the stuff of science fiction, and we might have thought “going green” was something you did for St. Patrick’s Day.
I am a latecomer to things green, but I’m slowly catching on—as are many others in our churches. Yet on the whole, our response to this issue has been slow. Perhaps we’ve feared being lumped in with people in the environmentalist camp with whom we don’t totally agree or who make us uncomfortable. Or maybe we’ve simply thought that caring for the planet was like rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. Whatever the reason, we have been mostly silent on the topic. And that, in my view, is a glaring omission since there are good reasons—some pragmatic and others biblical—for Christians to care about the planet.
1 We should care because we and our children have to live here. For too long, we humans have been cavalier about the world in which we live. We’ve acted as though we can do anything that we want to it, that we can throw anything we want into it, and that what we do will never catch up with us. Thankfully, we’re beginning to wake up to the truth that our actions do affect the environment. We’re realizing that not only do we have to breathe this air and live in this land, but so will our children and our grandchildren. We’re not just hurting the planet but ourselves and those we love, as well.
2 We should care because the earth is God’s and it brings Him glory. As followers of Jesus, our first motivation for protecting the earth is that this is our Father’s world: He created it, and He still rules over it. Genesis 1 and Psalm 24 show us that all of creation belongs to God.
Psalm 66 describes creation as a means by which God is glorified and through which He speaks to us. Now, not everyone is tuned in and listening, but creation, the psalmist says, has a voice. It’s speaking God’s praises and uttering His greatness to us.
3 We should care because God has given us instructions about how to live in the world. In Genesis 1:27–31, God blesses Adam and Eve, telling them to subdue the earth and rule over its creatures. God’s intention here was not that we would rule in destructive ways. Rather, He was expressing His desire for us to oversee nature as caring and responsible stewards of a sacred trust.
When God placed Adam and Eve in the garden in Genesis 2:15, He also designed a creative balance between their roles as both developers and caretakers of their surroundings. The Hebrew word “to work” used here, habad, means to change or use and indicates that creation in the garden was not in a static state of perfection, but in a dynamic one with human beings building it up. And the word shamar, “to tend or take care of,” actually means to protect. So, on the one side, we’re supposed to be designing, using, and ruling over this creation from God. On the other side, we’re supposed to protect it. This is the harmony of God’s creation.
4 We should care because God intends to restore His creation. When Adam and Eve sinned, a curse fell upon creation. The destruction that we experience now in our world is part of the fall. But the Bible says that the day of restoration is coming. And so, as followers of Jesus Christ, we long for the day when everything will be made right. We long for the day when there won’t be any injustice or sickness or suffering. When there won’t be any poverty. When there won’t be any cancer or polluted water. When there won’t be any of what Revelation 21:4 calls “the old order of things.”
When we take care of the earth, in a way, we’re saying to Jesus, “Let it begin in us now. We want to form a new community that does your work in the world to open the prison doors, to restore sight to the blind, to set the captives free.” When we partner with Jesus to care for the earth, we’re doing God’s good work in the world. We’re doing ministry!
As a relative newcomer to this whole issue, I still struggle to recycle, and a trip to the composter on a cold winter day is not on my short list of fun things to do. The process of going green has been a journey of both repentance and joy. Coming generations are going to live in a whole different world than the one in which I grew up. And even though some of the changes—things like recycling boxes, squiggly light bulbs, and hybrid cars—may take extra effort and sometimes cost more, I’m finding that in the long run, conviction trumps inconvenience. After all, this is my Father’s world.