World Environment Day

by Hilary Horn

By Lynne Baab

Maybe you’ve never heard of World Environment Day, a day set aside by the United Nations to focus on care for the environment. I only learned about it recently. The theme for 2018 is “Beat Plastic Pollution – if you can’t reuse it, refuse it,” and you can find stories and videos about this year’s theme here.

Illustration by Dave Baab

For a Christian, why does beating plastic pollution matter? For a Christian, why does it matter whether or not we care for the beautiful earth God created? How can we stay motivated to look out for God’s creation when so many people are wasting resources and polluting the water, air and land?

I’ve been doing some interviews for a future book that would answer those questions. So far, I’ve heard five primary reasons why Christians today are motivated to care for the beautiful world God created. Before you read the reasons below that I heard in interviews, spend a moment thinking about your own motivations. What motivations, ideas or parts of the Bible help you feel called to care for the earth? I’d love to see your comments about what you think.

Here’s what I’ve heard in interviews so far:

  • The call from Genesis. In the second creation account in Genesis 2, God set the man in the garden to till and tend it (Genesis 2:15). Various translations use different verbs, including “work it and take care of it,” and “cultivate and keep it.” God created the woman to partner with the man in doing this important work of cultivating the earth so that food might be provided for all creatures. Take a look at the variety of translations of this verse. All of the verbs used in the various translations provide motivation for caring for the earth.  
  • The earth is beautiful and God made it. This is my primary motivation. When my daughter-in-law, who I love, makes me a handmade birthday card, I treasure it. When I look at the beautiful trees, flowers, mountains, water, animals, birds, clouds and sky that God made, I can’t imagine not caring for something so lovely made by someone I love. Psalm 104 is a relevant scripture here, a description of the way God cares for the earth and its creatures. John Stott calls Psalm 104 one of the earliest ecological documents we have, and C. S. Lewis referred to the writer of Psalm 104’s “gusto for nature.” If the Bible has gusto for something beautiful that God made, why would we not take care of it?
  • Conservation. My father-in-law had a huge organic vegetable garden beginning in the 1950s until his death in the 1980s. He was committed to organic gardening because he viewed it as the best way to take care of the land. My grandmother and mother were shaped by years of hardship during the Depression, and they taught me not to waste anything. Reusing and recycling came second nature to them. They couldn’t fathom the throw-away habits that crowd our landfills and use precious land that could be farmland or homes. Christians are called “stewards” in three places in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 4:1-2, Titus 1:7, and 1 Peter 4:10, and stewards care for what has been entrusted to them.
  • Loving our neighbor now and into the future. One of my friends is passionate about the way we dispose of our waste. Everything we throw in the garbage or put into our drains impacts other people, either now or in the future. Her key verse for creation care is “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Our neighbor might be downstream from our town or a fisherman in Southeast Asia who can no longer harvest enough fish to live on because of plastic waste in the ocean. Our neighbor might be living now or in the future.
  • Caring for creation provides a wonderful bridge to people outside the church who care for the environment. When I lived in New Zealand, I was involved in a Christian creation care group in my town. We invited a man from the Department of Conservation to come and speak to us, and he said, “You Christians would get so much credibility and build so many good relationships if you would get involved with some of the groups that care about the earth.” So many people outside the church care about clean air and water, a healthy food supply, global climate change, and the future for animals and plants. When Christians join with those concerns, strong relational bridges can be built.

What keeps you motivated to care for God’s beautiful earth?

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers” (Psalm 24:1, 2).

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