‘… the present form of this world is passing away’ (1 Cor 7:31 NRSV).
Our survival as a species is at stake. We seem to be damaging the earth – possibly irreparably – or at least the biosphere, which makes our organic life possible. Its complex and interconnected ecology, atmosphere, oceans and weather systems may be permanently damaged due to greedy and careless human activity. An observant walk along an apparently pristine beach, for instance, shows how much plastic we dump in the ocean, choking sea creatures and now washing up on the shore. It will take centuries to clean up.
The current surge of climate protests around the world speak a message that is loud and clear. The bell is tolling for every threatened species, with every felled ancient rainforest tree, every extreme weather event, every dense cloud of atmospheric pollution and every melted glacier. The future of our planet, and with it our own future, hangs by a slender thread.
Believers know that humans have always had a moral responsibility to care for the earth. It exists, as we do too, only by the breath of the living God. From the beginning God gave us a duty of care towards creation. He did not give us licence to abuse or destroy it.
The economic system which underlies our living standards relies on the theory of continuous growth. We enjoy its benefits, but such unlimited growth must ultimately cause damage.
Burning more energy and resources to produce what we need and want may be economically cost-effective, but it creates more pollution. We then bury the polluted or polluting products, wash them into waterways and oceans, or release them into the atmosphere. The cheaper way is now proving more costly, and we discover that we have sacrificed long-term benefits for short-term gain.
One of the lessons from the climate protests is that, apart from blaming governments and corporations, we as consumers must change our ways. Protecting the planet may not be the special expertise of the church – others know more – but Christians can support the call for a more responsible way. Whether we join the protests or not, we too want a more responsible system. The fear agenda, however, is not enough for us. We have a different, higher motivation, that of recognising the love of the good Creator and serving that Creator in trust and faith.
We also know on a deeper, spiritual level that this world truly is passing away. But that’s in God’s hands, not ours, and we do not hasten it.
Until the last day God expects us to care for each other and for creation, working for a society in which we show each other and the earth itself the same love, grace and compassion we expect for ourselves.
So this is a matter of survival – both the earth’s and ours. We recognise that survival depends on God who brought all things into being. Through faith we learn to trust God in all things. Any good work we can do flows from that faith and trust, and that includes the necessary good work of caring for creation. We are motivated by love, not fear. That’s because our future is in the hands of our God who loves us and who loves the world so much that he gave his only Son.
If God could love the world so much, how can we fail to care for, tend and nurture this beautiful planet with all its wonder and amazement?