Summary: Should Christians be Tree Huggers?
The Bible teaches and we believe the eschatological account to be true for the end of time, as we know it. That truth is that when Jesus Christ returns as the Lion of Judah, King of Kings and Lord of Lords- this world will be destroyed. Jesus told His disciples about that day of His return in Luke 17:29 but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.
Luke 17:30 "It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. The apostle Peter gives us this account 2 Pet 3:7 But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
My question for the church today based on the fact that we believe Jesus is going to return some day and hopefully soon is; Do we have a responsibility brothers and sisters to care for and preserve the world we live in? Should we be environmentalists? How far do we go to preserve the environment? Do we need to be tree huggers?
We do not hear many sermons on the environment in our churches. Maybe, those of us who preach are so far removed from the world we live in having attained such a high spiritual maturity that we concern ourselves only with things above. Have we come to a point that we have so endorsed the fact that this place is not our home; we are only pilgrims on a sojourn, just passing through that we can ignore our stewardship of what the Lord has made? Perhaps, there is a lack of preaching/teaching on the environment because there are more pressing issues on the minds of our preachers about the spiritual condition of the people in their churches or they have deferred the environmental issues to the polemic New Age tree huggers and pantheists.
One does not need extensive scientific training to realize that the earth and its resources are finite. The United States continues to have problems in many states with ample water supplies, with availability of water that is not contaminated and suitable for consumption. Air quality issues continue to plague America as deaths from Asthma alone increased more than 45% in the ten-year period between 1985 and 1995 (Stassen and Gushee 431). Recent studies have linked outdoor air pollution to birth defects, low birth weight, premature births, stillbirths, and infant deaths (Bedy online). Fossil fuels that generate the power for much of our electricity and automobiles will be depleted by 2029. Other issues deal with the carrying capacity of the earth, which deals with her ability to supply the necessary food and absorb the waste generated as the population continues to increase geometrically.
We find God’s earth and ourselves in the shape it is currently in because God’s perfect order in God’s perfect creation was not exempt from the consequences of man’s sin. Christian’s need to understand that the whole creation groans as it waits for the sons of God to be revealed so that it can be set free from the bondage of its decay (Rom. 8:19-22). Ethically Christians must search for the Biblical truth about the Creator, His creation and principles so they can take seriously their time on this earth as a steward and not simply as a consumer (Evangelical Environmental online 2).
If we believe the answer to the environmental issues are in the Scriptures and that they are the inerrant Word of God, then let us examine just a few of the Scriptures that deal with our role and the preservation of this world we share.
First Christians we must understand that although God created man last and as caretaker, we also are a part of the creation. We must not as caretakers or stewards exploit the environment, because creation according to the psalmist is directed at God the creator and not man. Psa 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psa 19:2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. Psa 121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from? Psa 121:2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. We are not intelligent enough to fathom the mystery of the creator’s design, balance, harmony and purpose. George Washington Carver asked God some very deep questions about the universe, on down to the earth and God suggested to Carver that he simply concentrate on the peanut. Carver broke that peanut down into oils and butter with hundreds of different uses-from just one small aspect (a peanut) of ALL that God has created.
Environmental issues and their implications require that Christian’s consider man’s fallen nature and that they participate in the Gospel by sharing it with all of humanity. In light of the fact that creation suffers as well, we must assume responsibility to live as God’s representatives upon the earth and heal her scars and toxicity. Jesus Christ was present at creation. Jn. 1:1-3: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all the people.” So when he came incarnate into His fallen world it was to reconcile sinners to God through the cross, therefore, we have a responsibility to reconcile a decaying environment toward its original design. Col. 1:15-20: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Perhaps, too many Christians have neglected their responsibility to the Creator for too long to be His ambassador to lost souls and even longer to understand they are a creature living in conjunction with other creatures on an earth that is finite. According to the evangelical Environmental Network there are many in the world today who actually believe the environmental issues are a spiritual problem (online 2). Worse yet according to George Pickens one of my professors at KCC graduate school in Kentucky it has been posited by non-Christians that environmental destruction must be understood in light of Christian dogma.