(This article was extract from Live Just.ly, published by Micah Challenge in 2014.)
Written by: Ben Lowe, Jason Fileta, and Lisa Graham Mcminn
We hope to take this article published by Micah Challenge as the closing ePrayer article for the Lent season. Echoing to week 1’s article and the theme of “Reconciling with the Land”, let’s continue to look at the passage from Colossians chapter 1 and reflect together when we talk about shalom, we should not neglect caring for God’s creation.
When we think of the need for shalom in the world, it is easy to think first and mainly of human concerns such as the conflict in Syria, southern Sudan’s crisis, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
We rarely think of environmental issues such as pollution, animal suffering, deforestation, and a scarcity of water. But Jesus Christ is the Lord of all, and he is bringing peace and reconciliation to all levels of relationships through his blood shed on the cross:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together… For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:15-17, 19-20)
We serve a big God who is in the business of reconciling, through Christ, the entire created order unto himself if nothing less. Working for world peace does not mean focusing first on human wars and thinking about “the rest” later. Everything needs reconciliation, and in God’s plan, everything gets it together.
To seek justice in creation is pleasing to God, glorifying to Him, and part of His will for Shalom. In God’s Kingdom, there will be no unnecessary animal misery, there will be no drought, and there will be no oil spills. God created all and desires all the brokenness in creation to be restored. In fact, God entrusted us with seeing to it that creation is cared for.
African professor and theologian J.O.Y. Mante says attending to creation is the foundation of all disciplines that are serious about life. Mante says western theology is ecologically bankrupt. We spend our best theological energy talking about abstract doctrines such as sanctification, or covenants and dispensations, leaving little energy for talking about doctrines connected to living life. The result is that we live a non-ecological existence that is gradually destroying both human and non-human life. How, Mante asks, is that Christian?
African theology begins by talking about the fundamentals of life that infuse how Christians live – a theology of food, a theology of power. If we are willing to be humble we may learn something of our blind spots by attending to insights that come from Christians outside our own culture. A critical step towards developing in our theology of Creation Care is learning from our brothers and sisters around the world for whom care of creation isn’t a luxury for the privileged or an optional choice. Its necessity grows out of deep theological understanding and a need for survival.
For some of us, our passion to care for creation came out of our passion to see justice done for people suffering. In the 21st century we can’t adequately care for people without giving some good attention to caring for Earth. For most of human history Earth provided a seemingly endless supply of resources, but in the last 25 years articles in peer-reviewed, reputable, scientific journals have been showing us that we no longer inhabit a planet with unlimited resources and an endless capacity to absorb the byproducts of our lives. Caring for people, it appears, must now include caring about climate change, deforestation, and species extinctions.
I recall visiting a rural farmer, Stephen, in northern Uganda. His community was on the verge of famine, and when I asked what caused it, he replied without hesitation, “Climate change.” They had lost their growing season three years in a row, the first to drought, the second to floods, and the third once again to drought. For them, climate change wasn’t a topic of debate or an optional issue to confront only when a family member brings it up at the dinner table. For Stephen and his community, climate change meant starvation. I came away from Stephen having faced a stark and challenging truth: my relationship with the earth is a justice issue.
We all need Earth’s resources to survive, but the complexity comes in knowing how brazenly to approach the harvesting of what we need. Descriptions of felling forests, oil spills, strip mining for coal, packing pigs into “feed lots,” and stacking laying hens in cages elicit emotions. Perhaps it provokes defensiveness at a litany that sounds too much like Mother Earth rhetoric, and overvaluing of creation when there are other, more profound human problems confronting us. With a sound doctrine of creation care, these descriptions of environmental tragedy should instead illicit righteous anger and inspire us to change the world in which we live.
Whatever emotion this conversation about creation elicits, we primarily invite you to celebrate God’s good earth and to live in ways that fosters the well-being of creation, this beautiful place that we call home. Walking gently is a dance of sorts. It includes enjoying the good gifts of this bounteous Earth while taking no more than we need. In walking gently, we provide for our children – for all children – and for people and creatures yet to be born.
It is easy for me to feel shame or guilt about how I live, but it doesn’t motivate me to change nearly so much as when I feel inspired to change. Maybe you feel the same. The writer of Hebrews tells us to encourage each other toward perseverance and hope. Let’s hold tightly to the hope we say we have while bursting with love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:23-24). May love compel us as we grow our passion for the abundant life that God desires for all, a virtue of care that considers the food we eat, and the energy and resources we consume.
Discuss with one to two brothers or sisters at church about the concept of Creation Care. Let’s start among your group and eventually influence your church to dedicate attention to caring for God’s creation.
- Why do churches tend to overlook the importance of Creation Care?
- How could we influence our church to bring more attention to Creation Care?
- How to support each other, so that even Lent is over, we will continue the mission to Reconcile with the Land and not exploit the environment and the people who depends on the land for life?
We encourage you to take ownership of the problem and donate to CEDAR and its partners in Asia and Africa who faithfully bring about the reconciliation of the land through eco-friendly agricultural projects and community hygiene projects.
Lord, we praise you when we consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place. We thank you for making us a little lower than the angels and crowned us with glory and honor. You have made us rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under our feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. We thank you Lord.
However, out of a rebellious heart, we turn our backs to your command. For our interest and convenience, we have abused the Land and done harm to the poor. God, forgive us and create in us a pure heart, so we can do good and live godly lives with love towards God, others, and your creation. Help us to carry on with the mission to Reconcile with the Land. After the Lent season, help us not to fall prey to busyness and return to old ways of life that intent to harm the Land.
We pray for your Spirit to pour over the Church and renew the Church. Let the Church resume its place as the light of the world by dedicating care for your creation to show others how we have lived out an integral mission, bringing glory to You while benefitting others. Amen.
 Micah Challenge, Live Just.ly, ed. Jason Fileta (Portland: Micah Challenge USA, 2014), 94-99
 Shalom: Hebrew word for peace, completeness, wholeness. Where there is justice, there will be shalom.