Since 1970, April 22 has marked the annual celebration of Earth Day. This semiofficial holiday recognizes the life-sustaining benefits of this Earth and calls all Earth’s citizens to care for their planet.
Begun in the United States, the holiday has grown over the years to an international movement with year-round emphasis. Governments, environmental organizations, schools, and many more groups promote Earth Day. Largely absent from the list of celebrants, however, are the evangelical churches. Why should that be? Do we not have cause to discover and celebrate the world God has made and commit ourselves to its care?
Let me suggest four reasons, deeply rooted in our faith, why Christians, especially, should join in celebrating and caring for God’s creation.
The first and most important reason, of which we need to remind ourselves daily, is this: the earth, in all of its diversity, is the Lord’s (Ps. 24:1). Earth is the intentional product of God’s grace, and God has maintained and cared for it ever since creating it. God placed humans in the creation to share in his delight and to promote his purposes for it. And what are those purposes? In creating living creatures, God blessed them with the words “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” (Gen. 1:22, 28). The creation account envisions life teeming, expanding, and increasing in complexity so that all creatures realize the fullest potential God designed for them. The image embodies the Old Testament notion of shalom (peace and flourishing), God’s deepest desire for his creatures.
Second, God has given us a divine mission. As Genesis 1 records, God conferred on the human race a special status and blessing. Unlike the other living creatures, humans were created in the likeness of God—to be God’s image-bearers. In blessing humankind, God called us to rule over the other living creatures in such a way that God’s purposes of shalom would be realized. This intention is evident in Genesis 2:15, when God places the man in the garden to cultivate it (promote its growth and welfare) and keep it (preserve it). Thus, the fundamental call of humankind, whatever our separate occupations, is to promote the welfare of all creation.
Third, God through Christ has redeemed all of creation. Uanquestionably sin corrupted many of God’s good intentions for this world. But sin’s corrosion did not cause God to devalue or reject his creation. Rather, as John 3:16 tells us, God so loved all that he had made (cosmos) that God sent his son to redeem the world. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God established the kingdom of Christ, and in that kingdom the old vision of shalom is renewed. Each born-again member of Christ’s kingdom brings the potential blessing of restoration to a world much in need of it (Rom. 8: 22).
Finally, since Christ has redeemed this world, Christ-minded care for the Earth is an investment in the world to come. Whether we protect ecosystems, pursue green building practices, or promote an earth-friendly household, all our efforts will be translated into that new Earth to be realized at Christ’s coming. As Neal Plantinga puts it in speaking on the Christian’s central business, we may expect that “what we do now in the name of Christ shall be preserved across to the next life.”
So, to the glory of the Creator, let us celebrate Earth Day on April 22 and every day. For, like no other people, God’s redeemed know Earth’s Creator and Redeemer, and the world’s ultimate ends.For Discussion
- Why have evangelical Christians and churches been so silent on issues related to stewardship of the creation and earth keeping?
- Dream a little: brainstorm a picture of what you suppose God had in mind for the world when he first created it. What would it look like and how would it function?
- What does it mean that we were “created in God’s image and likeness”? How does that bless us? What does that require of us?
- Professor Van Dragt states: “Each born-again member of Christ’s kingdom brings the potential blessing of restoration to a world much in need of it” (Rom. 8:22). Discuss together what God might be calling each one of you to do.
- Do you agree that “Christ-minded care for the Earth is an investment in the world to come”? How can that be if, as Peter tells us: “the heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare . . . everything will be destroyed” (2 Peter 3:10-11)?