This is my third and final blog this week about the environment. If you haven't seen the first and second posts, I'd encourage you to read them so the rest of the story I tell in this blog will make sense to you.
Keep in mind God’s Word: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). This is not our place to trash. It’s God’s place to treasure. To care for the world is to care for its people. To take care of people is to fulfill the second greatest commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves. In doing so we also obey the greatest commandment, to love God with all our hearts.
Proverbs 21:20 says, “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” Foolish people consume, wise people preserve, understanding that even if we die tomorrow, we should leave something behind for our children and our children’s children, and the generations that may follow. The earth is not disposable. Nor are its resources inexhaustible.
Creation care makes good sense even if it were not explicitly stated in our job description. But read Genesis 1 and 2, and you will see that it clearly is.
If I told you I loved my children but allowed open gas lines in the house, removed the smoke detectors, and let broken windows go unfixed, you would have reason to question my parenting. Why? Because if a parent loves his children, he’ll do his best to provide them a safe home.
God never revoked His plan to entrust the earth’s care to us. Romans 8 makes clear that the whole creation fell on our coattails, and, in our resurrection will rise on our coattails—all the more reason that we should care for it.
Now, my discretionary stewardship decisions may look quite different than yours. You don’t have to do it my way; I don’t have to do it yours. Legalism in creation care is as stifling and ineffective as all other legalism. But together as Christ-centered, Bible-believing, people-loving Christians we should agree to be creation-loving. We shouldn’t have to follow secular culture in reasonable creation care; we should lead the way. And when people ask why we care about the planet, we should be ready to tell them we love this world because we love its Creator and Redeemer.
I love the fact that in Gardening Eden, Mike Abbaté doesn’t leave us on the theoretical level but offers specific suggestions for creation care, right down to alternatives in growing and buying food. Mike is not using this book to make extreme claims or pick a fight or take political sides. This is not a political book that stereotypes or berates people or assumes the worst of them. If you find some things in the book you disagree with, fine. You don’t have to wear a tree hugger t-shirt. (I don’t.) We can still disagree about which government policies will and will not help care for the environment, as long as we are truly committed to caring for the environment.
Gardening Eden contains good theology, worldview, science, and practical application. This book is fair and balanced, demonstrating an unapologetic love for God’s creation, something conservatives and liberals alike should share. It is a welcome and much-needed resource, whose time has come. I pray it will open the minds and hearts of many to the privileges and responsibilities of stewarding God’s world.
One other thought to consider—what message do we send secular people when we dismiss environmental concerns? What credibility do we have when we say we love the Creator, but are not concerned about caring for his creation? We can disagree on certain issues, of course, and we should never worship the creation, only the Creator. But if they see us expressing environmental concerns, and leading the way in reasonable care for God's world, it can build relationships rather than hinder them. It can open doors to the gospel instead of closing them.
In the first of these three blogs on the environment, I told the story of speaking at a wonderful evangelical youth conference where I made a statement about God wanting us to care for the environment of his world. I mentioned that one person applauded, but otherwise there was stone silence. Let me finish by telling the rest of that story.
After speaking that day, I stayed and talked with many terrific Christ-loving students who were warm and responsive. Afterward, as my wife Nanci and I headed to lunch, I smiled and said to her, “Wasn’t that something when that poor person applauded and nobody else joined in?”
Nanci, eyes big, replied, “That poor person who applauded was me!”
Well, Nanci, I know you will applaud Mike Abbaté’s book. And I hope more believers will join in applauding the notion that we should be thoughtful caretakers of God’s creation. Not in spite of the fact that we believe the Bible and trust Jesus, but precisely because we do.