Hi, welcome to Redeem the Commute. I’m Ryan your host for the daily challenges. Today’s Wednesday it’s the day in our weekly rhythm where we see how the Bible’s take on our topic has challenged and transformed our thinking. Yesterday, we read a passage from the Bible from Paul’s letter to the Romans. We saw how connected God’s creation, the natural world around us, is with God’s plan for human beings. We saw that it’s pretty impossible to separate out soul from body and spirit. Because God has one plan for all of humanity, for all of creation that involves both the physical things he created, as well as spiritual beings like human beings.
We’ve spoken about how God created us to be in perfect harmony with other human beings, with God, with the natural world around us. It sounds beautiful, the Garden of Eden right? Humans and God walking together in a natural environment where everything is provided for us. But you probably recognize it’s not the world we live in today. Since we live in a world that isn’t exactly what God created it to be, something’s broken about it. We can see a variety of responses in our world to how to fix that. A lot of people in our world even if they don’t call themselves followers of Jesus recognize something isn’t quite right with our natural world. There are a range of responses.
But we’ll talk about two of the extremes. One extreme would be what we call pantheism. It would be the extreme view that says nature is to be worshiped. In this view nature essentially becomes one’s God, to be worshiped above all other things. Unfortunately, what that does to humans is it tells us that we are essentially a parasite. We’re a part of the natural world that has gone terribly wrong. We are the problem, we need to go. There are certainly some who act that way, even if they wouldn’t verbalize that belief. They certainly act as if we are a virus or a parasite in the world. We don’t belong here, and we’re destroying it by our mere presence.
It’s challenging, in that kind of view you either have to love nature or love people, you can’t love both. Human rights become very questionable, in that kind of view. You have to decide what takes precedence, the natural ecological world or human lives. We’ve built up the civilizations that we have based on an idea of human rights. That would be very much in question, if we were to elevate the rights of nature far above the rights of human beings. You can see some of the conundrums that come up when you start to think about these issues. But pantheism is one extreme view. That basically says, that the natural world is God to be worshiped.
Maybe even God is the natural world to be worshiped, and we, since we eat things in this natural world by destroying them. Since we want to burn fuels to stay warm, to get places, are a virus and we need to go. Another extreme view would say that essentially human beings are some day going to be sent to a disembodied heaven. We might picture it in the sky or in the clouds or something like that. But we’ll have the sense that heaven is somewhere else, and our goal as human beings is to somehow get to heaven, and leave all this behind. This natural world is just to be thrown away, it’s disposable.
This view, of course, has its problems too. Because this view says, that the natural world that God created and said was good, is actually no good at all … it’s garbage. Since God said we were very good, we have to wonder how much better than the natural world we are. Are we going to be thrown away and disposed of too? Wouldn’t be consistent for God to say that something was good and very good, and then to destroy it all just in a fit of rage. If he wanted to do that he probably would have done that a long time ago anyway. No, God seems to have some kind of a plan for the natural world and for us.
That’s where the Christian story comes in. The Christian story does not say that we’re all going to fly off to some disembodied heaven someday, and that none of this matters. There was a Christian pastor who, just about a year ago, said something to this affect that caused quite an uproar. His name was Pastor Mark Driscoll, and he said, “I know who made the environment, and he’s coming back and going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV.” After he said that he had to backtrack and apologize. He claimed it was just a joke. But, you know what it represents the view of some Christians out there. That this world’s just going to be burnt up, and doesn’t matter.
I think a true experience with Christian faith looks more like a middle road. First of all, Christians worship the God who created nature, rather than worshiping nature itself. You know, I love the God moments I’ve had in nature. I told you about one of them Monday. Another one was when I was sleeping on a beach one night. I woke up to feel this sudden cold front coming, and watched this wall of cloud come in over Georgian Bay, roll over the beach over top of me. It was just this moment of awe and wonder at the power of majesty of creation. Which only points to the power and majesty of God. For a Christian, nature isn’t to be worshiped in and of itself. But it can certainly point us to the one who is to be worshiped, God.
This means nature should be treated with respect. It’s a creation, it’s God’s work of art, it’s his masterpiece. So it’s not to be disrespected, not to be destroyed for no good reason, it’s meant to be treated with respect. Secondly, the Christian story says that human beings are part of that creation. We are part of nature, we are animals, we’re mammals, yes that’s all true. However, it says we have a special role. We’ve been asked to take care of God’s creation, as what the Bible calls stewards. Or, in the very first story in the Bible about God creating the world he said, “We were to have dominion over the earth.”
In the big picture this seems to look like human beings having a special role of care for creation. We’re invited to take care of it. Not as if it’s our own … that it’s something we’ve been given to play with, or destroy, or keep, or do whatever we want with. But rather that it’s God’s, and he’s offered it to us for a time, to take care of for him. Think of how an investment advisor is supposed to look after somebody’s money. They’re not supposed to take it as if it’s their own money, and use it for whatever they want to use it for, and buy things, and invest in their own companies. No, instead they’re supposed to take that money, and care for it in the same way that the owner would have cared for it. They’re supposed to invest it in ways consistent with the owner’s risk tolerance, the owner’s ethics.
Things go very wrong when the steward, the investment advisor, takes that money and treats it like their own. Uses it consistent with their own beliefs and ethics rather than the owners. The natural world around us can be seen in a similar kind of way. It’s been given to human beings to steward and take care of. In a way that’s consistent with God’s values, God’s ethics. It’s not just ours to keep, destroy, spend however we want to. Rather this is God’s, and God has a purpose and a plan for it, and we’re supposed to care for it in a way consistent with that plan.
Now we humans unfortunately, didn’t do that at the very beginning. We rebelled against God. Decided to use nature for our own purposes. We can see evidence all over our world of how broken this world is as a result. How broken our lives are as a result. But amazingly, in coming to earth as Jesus Christ, God has given us a second chance. The first Adam messed up. The second Adam, the second man is here to make it right, and he’s given us human beings a second chance to start living, and practicing God’s kingdom now in all that entails. Yes, moral living. Yes, in terms of following Jesus in everything we do and decide, and that includes how we use the resources we’ve been given.
The natural world around us, is not ours, it’s God’s. He’s invited us, he’s given us the amazing privilege of looking after it for a time. But we have to do it in ways that are consistent with what he would want especially because this is our second chance. So I’ve got a question for you to think about today. I hope you’ll discuss it with somebody else you know from the train or bus, from work, or from the neighborhood. Just watch the videos on the same days, and then whenever you are together discuss what you’ve been learning.
Question: How else do you think following Jesus might be connected to taking care of the natural world around us?
For example, one thing I can think of is how could we possibly say we’re loving our neighbors if we pollute the water that they need to drink? So, Jesus saying we should love our neighbors is actually very much connected with how we use the earth. How else do you see connections between what Jesus said, and how we use the earth? Have a great discussion. Don’t forget we’re reading the Bible in sync together as a community. Check our website or app to see what today’s reading is. Have a great one, bye for now.