Okay, so here is what I want you to do: go get a Bible that you can give to a non-Christian to help lead them to a relationship with God. But first, before you give it to them, open it up and tear out a few pages. Next, turn a few chapters and tear out another page. Repeat this several more times, then give them the Bible.
"Wait a minute!" you say. "Not only are you asking me to tear out pages of the Holy Bible, but what if some of the pages we tore out were the specific passages that would have led this person to salvation?" Of course, you are right. The Bible is a complete work and we are told not to alter it. So by randomly taking out pages, we could indeed be short changing someone’s opportunity to have God revealed to them.
However, while most Christians shudder at the thought of ripping pages out of their Bible, many think nothing of the degradation of the environment, or the endangering or even wiping out of an entire species of plant or animal. Where’s the parallel you ask? God has indeed revealed Himself to us through both the written word and His incarnate Son (special revelation). But He also reveals Himself to us through His creation (general revelation). So, how does He do this?
When Paul wrote to the Romans, he was speaking of wicked men and said: "What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, His divine nature and His eternal power have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Paul is not talking about the cities that were built, or the things that were "made" by man, but rather about God’s own creation; things such as the mountains, the ocean, the birds, fish and animals. The Denver airport is a marvel of modern technology, but not exactly where I would take someone to show off God’s “divine nature”. Of course if you’re trying to demonstrate patience, then that’s a different story. So all men, Paul is saying, should be able to know of God by seeing what He created.
I know this is certainly true for me. I take every chance I can to get out into the wilderness. When I am alone on a backpacking trip deep in the mountains, I see God all around me, not revealed by the hand of man, but rather by the very creation of the Lord. Do you ever feel that way when you are out in nature? Even watching the birds at my bird feeder I am awed by the intricate coloring and unique features that each bird possesses – not chance, but design.
David tells us that, “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” You see God is out there, and as Francis Schaeffer put it, “He is not silent”. Yet, how about the loss of species upon the earth every year? Or what about the rampant way we sprawl out into the wild places, clear-cutting stands of trees for malls and our own “conveniences”? One argument that some Christians have used to justify their own selfishness is, “Well, the Bible says that God will destroy this earth anyway.” Absolutely. He will. But He will do it in His time, when He determines. We are not God to decide the timing of such things. Until then, we are here as tenants caring for something that does not directly belong to us. This gives us no right to abuse or misuse it. God told us to “rule over” all the creation. Now there are good rulers and there are evil rulers, which do you think He was implying that we be?
According to Paul, God can reveal Himself to us through His creation. Great! Then maybe I can take a lost friend and go down the street from my house to a beautiful forest so he too can see God. Or maybe I could show him a passenger pigeon, an amazing bird that can fly so gracefully, and has incredibly organized nesting areas. Yeah, that should help them to see the magnificence of a wondrous creator! But wait. The passenger pigeon went completely extinct due to man’s slaughter of them. The last one, named “Martha” after Martha Washington, died in captivity in 1914. So it looks like no help in the witnessing department there. And the forest down the street? Gone. It had to be all cut down to put in a four-lane highway and housing development. Hmm, I wonder what God thinks of that? I would guess that He may be a bit disappointed with our “ruling” ways. That really leads us to the real reason to take care of creation … because it has value to God. Many times in the Bible God created something and saw that it was “good”. The Bible tells us He was “pleased” with His world. If it pleases God and has real value to Him, then it should be important to us. God loves us. He loves the world He has created. So it is up to us to decide not only our response to God’s love for us, but also our response to how to care for the world around us, God’s world.
What should our response as Christians be? Unfortunately, it sometimes seems like the church in general, and many individual Christians specifically, have dropped the ball when it comes to an environmental conservation and preservation ethic. One would expect that of all the people in the world, the Christians should be at the forefront of taking care of the creation because they claim to want to honor Him who created it! Granted, as Christians, we have many other concerns, but if we let the creation around us slip away, we may find all the other issues going away as well.
If one looks, you can find Christians making a difference in caring for creation. Get involved and join up. There are some organizations and several books and websites that can help you to start to develop a stewardship ethic. Then spread the word. If you are someone who is already involved in creation care, or would like to get started, send me an email and tell me your story, I would love to hear from you. Send it to email@example.com.
Let us use our voices together. Let’s take the lead and equip ourselves with the knowledge of what God tells us about His world. Not just learning passages here and there, but drinking in an understanding of the benevolent character of God, and how He views His creation. Of course, just as important, get out in it! There is no better way to become inspired about caring for creation, than to take the time to get out and see the “work of His hands”.
On one trip to the mountains, I camped next to a huge rock in the middle of a valley next to a stream. The rock was much taller than I was, and over the next few days, I made some observations about this rock and it’s significance to the world. It was a great place to perch if you were a Gray Jay looking for a meal or plotting your course of flight. It must have been a stalwart in the river that used to run down the valley where it now resided. Perhaps it was a place to catch a rest if you were a river otter on your way upstream. It now provided a sanctuary at its base; a hiding place for various creatures who would be wise to stay out of sight of predators. Most of all, it was a stronghold where I could clamor up to the top, and sit and watch the sunset behind the mountains, bringing shadows and a chill to the valley. Realizing that the rock had been there long before I was, and that it would surely be there long after I am gone, it gave me a sense of contentment and genuine admiration for the One who placed it there. The words of Paul seemed to echo off the canyon walls, “being understood from what had been made”. Yes. I understand.
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