The Genesis creation narrative begins with “In the beginning”. Unfortunately, modern Christianity often mistakenly holds the belief that the importance of creation ends in Genesis. Creation is repeatedly viewed by the modern church through an etymological lens.
But what if the Creation narrative is more than just the anthropological answer to the question “How did we get here?”
Creation was not only the beginning of earth, but also the beginning of theodicy, the answer to what God is doing about evil in the world. By looking at creation singularly etymologically, we miss the importance of creation within the broader story of the Bible and neglect God’s commands to steward the earth.
Creation is not just the work of God’s hands, but the reference point of who God is and how he works in the world. Creation is the embodiment of God’s love. Nature reflects God’s love and beauty. The very breath and heartbeat of God resides within creation. To eliminate or minimize the role of creation ignores God’s loving, redemptive character.
Love is the driving force behind God’s redemption of humanity and creation. The themes of love, mercy and justice begin in the creation narrative and continue throughout the Bible. Creation is the beginning of God’s mercy in our world.
John 3:16 often gets misinterpreted as referring to humanity exclusively. But Jesus’ resurrection sets all of creation free. The promise of an end to death, suffering and sorrow apply to the created world as much as they do to us humans. But why then do we continually minimize our role in caring for the beautiful earth God has given us?
Even though creation holds such importance to God, as seen in the prevalence of verses about stewardship of the earth and animals, environmental care remains amongst the most neglected commands of the modern church. Not once in all my years have I heard a sermon preached about the importance of creation or creation care. I am guessing I am not alone in this.
We need to treat the created world like we actually believe God created it.
How often do we actually consider the effects of our lifestyles?
Do we even stop to think about how many precious minerals it takes to make one Smartphone?
Do we consider how many trees were cut down and habitats destroyed to build the subdivisions we live in?
Do we treat our pets with the unconditional love and attention they deserve, or do we treat them merely as accessories to our lives?
Do we make room for animals and nature in our churches and in our daily worship practices?
Do we need to drive when we could walk?
Do we need another device in our homes?
Do we need to eat genetically altered, chemically induced, factory farm raised food because of its convenience?
Our post-modern “Culture of new” has conditioned us to ignore the environmental degradation caused by our endless pursuit of the new. But Christians are called to be set apart, to be different from the world. We need to set ourselves apart in the way we care for the created world.
We need to make environmental stewardship a central pillar of discipleship. We need to view the world as an incredible, irreplaceable gift from God rather than as something to be taken advantage of.
We need to begin to restore the environment that we have plundered, reorienting us to treat the earth the way God intended. We need to treat the created world like we actually believe God created it.
A plethora of ways exist for us to care for our world, both individually and collectively. We must embrace environmental protective strategies at the micro, mezzo and macro levels.
This is done through lessening our carbon footprints through conservation and less consumption, using clean energy, reducing our depletion of natural resources, purchasing local and organic produce, and managing our output of consumer garbage, will all help.
Embracing cleaner transportation modes, planting trees, and cleaning water-ways all contribute to the rejuvenation of creation. The current thinking of sustainability is not what the world needs, rather the earth needs us to take as little as possible. We have to begin to restore the earth now.
God charges humans with stewarding creation. But ever since the Garden of Eden, humans have continued to disobey God’s order to care for the earth. In 2016, we must individually and collectively reverse this trajectory by embracing God’s call to stewardship.
Julie Eby is a recent Masters of Theological studies graduate. She is passionate about social justice, environmental stewardship and Jesus. Being of partial First Nations ancestry, she finds the mysteries of God revealed in nature.