To stand in the thick of an environmental debate, one might assume that environmentalism—caring for the earth—is a political issue. Perhaps even a “leftist” or “liberal” agenda. But from a Christian perspective, there is nothing political about it.
We understand ourselves to be a part of creation, deeply embedded in an interdependent world that God graciously sustains with vibrant life. Humans are the pinnacle of God’s creative work—his beloved masterpieces. We are a key part of the intricate and lovingly made ecosystem that he has woven into perfection. It is our noble responsibility to tend to his “garden,” to protect and look after the earth and its creatures.
This perspective allows us to look honestly at the paradox of a broken and beautiful world in a way that elicits a desire to care for creation, a joy in appreciating the environment for what it is, and a hope for the restoration of brokenness.
“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.” – Wendell Berry
God created a good place
The Bible begins with God creating the world in Genesis 1-2. God called the world good before human beings were even on the planet. God intended the first humans, Adam and Eve, to live in a world full of life and peace in the Garden of Eden. As creatures, they were supposed to fill a special role within God’s creation and be its primary caretakers—or stewards (Genesis 2:15).
When Adam and Eve ignored God’s provision and thought they could get by without God’s help, brokenness, pain, and suffering entered this world. With this first sin came the first disconnect between the environment and us as human beings.
We are imperfect gardeners
Since Adam and Eve, we have failed in our role as stewards of nature. We have been imperfect in this God-given monumental task—sometimes knowingly, and sometimes without realizing the damage we are doing to ourselves, to the planet, and to animals. The Bible is clear: when we fail to live as caretakers of creation, all of creation suffers along with us. (Romans 8:22)
Earth and humanity share a common hope and future
When Jesus died and rose again, the peace of the Garden of Eden began to be restored. Our failures as caretakers of this earth are forgiven in Jesus, and the damage that these failures has caused will ultimately be healed (Isaiah 11:6-9, Ezekiel 34:23-31; Revelation 22:1-2).
This true hope ought to drive us deeper into relationship with God’s beautiful creation. Instead of reacting to ecological problems out of fear or anxiety, Christians can care for our planet, enjoy nature because it is good in God’s eyes, and trust that God will ultimately renew the earth out of this broken but beautiful one (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1). We are re-energized to be part of God’s own work in caring, preserving, and restoring the environment.
The Bible helps us to understand what it means to be a good caretaker today. “To work” the earth is to plant seeds, grow food, harvest crops, rest the soil, humanely raise livestock, honor the seasons, and to harness the wind and the sun. “To care for” the earth is to learn from the past, do our best in the present, and look toward the future; a good person leaves an inheritance for his children and his children’s children (Proverbs 13:22).
Our world is still beautiful
Even in its present state, the earth is a wondrous creation whose song of praise to our gracious God is unending. Psalm 66:4 says, “Everything on earth will worship you; they will sing your praises, shouting your name in glorious songs.” Take part in experiencing the glory of the Lord through nature. The trees clap their hands, the birds sing praises, the lilies reflect God’s beauty. If God adorns the flowers of this earth with such tender care and creativity, imagine how much more he loves and provides for us (Matthew 6:25-34).
Humans are God’s most treasured work, and an integral part of the world he also created out of love. Our inherited sinful nature does not give us permission to abstain from doing what we can to maintain earth’s vitality for future generations.
Baby steps. Walk or ride your bike when you can. Reduce, reuse, and recycle are not anti-Christian ideas. They’re just good sense. Reducing use of single-use plastic and avoiding disposable toys and fast fashion are relatively easy ways to cut back on our negative effects on the earth. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has a good list for how to get started. Every little step we take can over the years make a big impact.
Thinking “small” helps. When we buy from farmer’s markets and local shops, we know where our food is grown and our goods are made. Small-scale farming is better for the environment, and the food it produces is often better for our bodies and our pocketbooks, as well.
Plant a garden. Gardens have a special place in the story of creation—the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8), the garden in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36), and the image of a garden taking over a city when the earth is renewed (Revelation 22:1-3). Growing some of our own food can also remind us how God provides for our needs through nature.
Get out and enjoy it. God doesn’t specifically tell us how to spend our time, but the mere presence of amazingly beautiful creation is an invitation to enjoy it. Being in nature is also good for our mental and physical health.
The future glory
God’s got this. As stewards, we are responsible for the choices we make that impact the environment, for better or worse. But we can rest in God’s loving promise to ultimately restore all of his creations to perfection.
“Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.” – Romans 8:20-21