Thursday, April 12, 2012

#6. We are to seek restoration in all relationships

Sorry I've been off for a while, I took a week long challenge to stay away from all forms of electronic entertainment, which included this blog.  But I'm back to carry on with our top ten reasons that every Christian should care for the environment.  To recap:

10. The world is good.
9. God blessed his creation.
8. God cares for his creation.
7. God imposed restrictions on our use of the natural world.

Today we are looking at the concept of shalom, and how God asks us to seek restoration in all of our relationships.

The Genesis account of the Fall goes something like this: Adam and Eve were given one restriction in Eden: to not eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  The serpent tempted Eve, telling her she would be like God.  She listened, and convinced Adam to eat the forbidden fruit with her.  The serpent was partially right – they became like God, but without the power.  The consequences were laid down in chapter three.  The relationship between people and God was tarnished, with God casting them from the garden; the relationship between people was tarnished, as Adam blamed Eve and Cain killed Abel; the relationship between humans and nature was tarnished, as working the ground became laborious, and an animal was killed to provide clothing.

Whatever you may think about this story, it profoundly captures the current state of humanity and the tensions we face in our three primary relationships (some add a fourth: the psychological relationship with ourselves).  Cornelius Platinga says that the Biblical message is that the world ‘is not the way it is supposed to be.’  There is an ideal of shalom in Genesis one, a perfect peace that overwhelms all forms of disorder and chaos, a light that banishes the darkness, but this ideal has been lost.  The message of the rest of Scripture is that Christ came to bring shalom.  In response, our love should spill over into our relationships and bring peace and reconciliation to that which is broken.

This means that we have a biblical mandate to care for creation.  The destruction of habitat, the loss of species, the increase in disease – none of these are shalom.  The picture of shalom is in part one of man and woman working together in harmony to serve and protect the natural world.  Anything less than this is sin.

Christians tend to do alright when it comes to restoring relationships with God and each other, through evangelism and social justice.  Creation care tends to get lost in the mix.  But as we have so far seen, the Bible says a lot about the importance of creation care; restoring that relationship cannot be ignored.

Furthermore, we humans are not separate from the environment.  Negative effects on the environment result in negative effects to us.  We cannot pollute a river and simultaneously ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’  Environmental degradation hurts people.  An elderly woman gets a respiratory infection and dies, said infection a result of poor air quality in her neighbourhood.  That poor air quality was due in part to the waste produced by Christians.  But we are so disconnected from these events that we barely realize that our luxury is antithetical to shalom.  Christians purchase plastic communion cups, but to get the raw materials to produce such cups, indigenous peoples lost their living space and their livelihood.  We simply cannot disconnect creation care from people care; by caring for the planet, we care for people too.  When the church gets involved in restoring creation, it provides an evangelistic witness to the world as they wonder at a God who cares enough about them to care for their living space too.  And so shalom is brought back to all three broken relationships.

It is not either/or.  Too many pastors seem to think that their only mandate is to bring people to God.  This is a narrow and limited gospel.  Caring for people involves taking care of their needs, spiritual, psychological and physical; creation care is therefore an important element that can only revitalize the church.

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