How should Christians confront care for the environment?

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: The following is an article I wrote as a bulletin insert for my church.

The past decade has seen a revival and intensification of the environmentalist movement in both our country and the world. Today, it is hard to walk into any store without seeing some reference to something being “green” or “good for the environment.”

The environmental movement is like any movement, in that there are many different degrees to which people subscribe to it, but in its most passionate form the green movement seeks to elevate the rest of creation not only above man, but above the Creator. It is a practical outwork, in many ways, of the wrath of God being revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom 1:18). How, then, should believers in Jesus Christ deal with the environment?

First, much like we’ve recently seen in Mark 2:27, that “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” we must remember that man wasn’t made for creation’s sake, but creation for man to enjoy, and all of creation (including man) for God’s glory. Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” Man was given dominion by God over all creation.

It is true that with dominion comes responsibility, but we must outright reject any form of environmentalism that seeks to elevate the creation over man. This immediately eliminates accepting the movement in its most extreme forms, but it also impacts how we respond when others, whether they be individuals, groups, or governments, seek to influence how we live and treat creation. We must reject any form of environmentalism that, whether in intention or result, unduly and negatively affects man. After all, it is man to whom God has given dominion and made in His image.

There is a “creation care” movement afoot in many circles of evangelical Christianity that seeks to reconcile the teachings of the Bible with the socio-political environmentalist movement. I personally feel (let me stress “personally”) this is attempt by many faithful brothers and sisters in Christ to do what they believe is the right thing, but it carries the feeling of political correctness at the expense of a proper biblical worldview.

I do not believe that Christians should be consumed with environmental causes, especially when the Bible teaches “the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Pet 3:7). If anything, in light of that, we ought to be consumed with our holy God who will bring these things to pass, and with proclaiming the truth to a dying world, that people might have their eyes opened, repent of their sins, believe in the gospel, and follow Him.

We must always keep a heavenly perspective, beloved, knowing that this world is not our home. We are aliens, strangers, and not of this world, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil 3:20-21). Jesus Christ is in control. All authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18), so there is absolutely nothing happening on the earth or to the earth that He isn’t fully aware of. There is nothing He isn’t also fully in control of. Nothing happening which He hasn’t decreed to be.

So then, in light of these wonderful truths, how shall we live? First, above all things, pursue holiness. Pursue a right relationship with God, for the day is coming when Jesus will return, and then it will be too late. Seek the Lord now while He may be found and submit to His lordship over all things.

Second, remember that you have dominion over the rest of creation and not the other way around. Sure, creation has been corrupted because of sin, because of the fall of man (Gen 3), but the purpose of God and the reality of our being created to rule over the rest of the earth remains. The time will come, when Jesus returns, in which He will restore all things as they are supposed to be. All will be made right in the timing of God.

All this, of course, does not mean we cannot and should not show concern for the earth’s care, as long as a right perspective is maintained. Until the return of Christ we are to be good stewards of what we’ve been given. “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy” (1 Cor 4:1-2). If we are to call ourselves servants of Christ and if we are to be those proclaiming the gospel (mysteries of God), then we ought not to abuse our dominion, but take care of creation where we can, and where it doesn’t unduly harm man.

If you feel you should recycle, then recycle. Don’t litter. Use products you feel won’t harm the environment if you feel like that’s what you need to do. Never deliberately do something to harm the environment. And never lose sight of the big picture, that man has dominion over the creation, that this world is temporary, and that Jesus will right all wrongs.

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