Too often we might think of “creation care” as something that we can opt to do – something for people with a natural “green thumb,” a desire to garden or an environmentalist impulse. We can easily forget that creation care is both a mandate from God and a form of Kingdom action. By caring for the earth and its creatures, we fulfill our human vocation as described in Genesis 1 and 2 and we partner with Christ in His work of reconciling and liberating all things. For it is God’s desire that all of creation might experience the shalom for which it was made, the fullness and flourishing that the creation was created for.
As it says in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” We are not owners of it. However, God has made us its caretakers. Genesis 1:28 tells us that we have been given “dominion” over the earth and all its inhabitants. Like stewards left to care for kingdom property, we are to “tend and keep it” – to work with it and care for it – until Christ returns (Genesis 2:15). This care-taking dominion is an integral part of what it means to be human, and particularly for the Christian.
Our concern for creation and our call to care for it is not simply rooted in the creation story and our human vocation; it is also an integral part of continuing Christ’s mission here on earth. As co-heirs with Christ and agents of His kingdom now, we are called to be the presence of Christ on earth by proclaiming the Kingdom and continuing Christ’s reconciling and liberating work. We often think of this in terms of human beings and our relationship with one another, but scripture reveals that the proclamation of the good news extends to all of creation. As Paul writes in Colossians 1:23, the gospel is to be “preached to every creature under heaven” – not simply human beings – for Christ came to reconcile all things (Colossians 1:20).
This makes sense given that all of creation suffers from the pervasive effects of sin (Romans 8:20-22). As we see in Romans 8, not only are human beings oppressed, but creation, itself, has been “subjected to futility” due to the fall (Romans 8:20; Genesis 3:17). It is God’s desire that creation be liberated from this “bondage to decay” so that it might experience the freedom that we, through the Spirit, enjoy now and will enjoy in its fullness when Christ returns (Romans 8:21). As agents of the Kingdom, we are to work toward this end. Just as we are called to care for, liberate and reconcile human beings, so too are we called to the work of liberating the land and reconciling all of its inhabitants so that creation might experience freedom and flourishing.
That God intends for creation to flourish makes sense given the profound interdependence of created life. Without fertile soil or clean water, a healthy atmosphere or thriving plants and animals, human beings can’t survive, much less thrive. The flourishing of all of creation is the necessary prerequisite and context for human flourishing, that is to say, to enable us to live fully into the image of God each person bears.
Yet God desires for creation to flourish not simply because it benefits and enables human life. As Genesis reminds us, God looked on everything that He had made and called it good – not just human beings (Genesis 1:28-29). Because God created it, it has inherent worth, and as such, deserves our respect, care and delight. Moreover, creation plays an integral role in glorifying God on earth (Psalm 19:1; Psalm 148) and will participate in the life of the eschatological kingdom (Revelation 22:2). Just as our bodies will not be destroyed but resurrected when Christ returns, so, too, will creation be restored, redeemed and in some mysterious way “resurrected” when Christ reigns in the new heavens and the new earth.
Thus creation care is a call to reclaim and live faithfully our fundamental vocations as image bearers of God and good stewards of creation, and to broaden certain anthropocentric views in order to embrace God’s all-encompassing vision – a vision that sees all of creation and calls it good. It is to become an agent of the Kingdom who sets about the work of liberating, reconciling and restoring all of creation so that all things might glorify God and experience the shalom that characterizes life with Him, leading to the benefit of both people and planet. As we do that now, we enjoy the fruits of it, and in hope and anticipation we point towards Christ’s Kingdom which will one day surely come, “on earth as it is in heaven”.
Interested in learning more about Creation Care? Here is a compiled list of resources.
Pope Francis has done the Church and the world a great favor by writing “Laudato Si’”, his encyclical on the Christian case for creation care where he shows us that being good stewards of God’s creation is right and good and necessary Christian discipleship. At our next Soundings Seminar on Tuesday, October 20 we will explore this important letter at Saint Agnes Catholic Church in Arlington in partnership with the John Paul II Fellowship. One of the reasons we’re so keen to do this is that Coracle is committed to Kingdom action as Christians, and creation care is one of the ways we do that. But, really, how IS creation care an act of Kingdom Action? Below, Abigail Hull connects the dots.