Post Date: September 9, 2014

Good News About Environmental Stewardship

(This is the fourth post in a series from contributor Jim Mullins on faith and environmental stewardship. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

The curse of sin is like a haboob. It comprehensively sweeps through, covers everything with its nastiness, and distorts the vision of everyone in its path.

When sin entered the world through human rebellion in Genesis 3, it not only affected our spiritual lives, but had serious ramifications for all aspects the physical creation. The perfectly balanced systems of God’s creation that were intended to teem and flourish began to fall apart and became a threat to human flourishing.

Now, the physical world can be dangerous, but God pushes back so many of the effects of sin through the human work of building, innovating, and other types of  “re-arranging” of the environment. By design, humans always have an impact on the environment, and that should be a good thing.

But as we know, that’s not always the case.

We often have a detrimental impact on God’s world, because sin has seeped into our hearts and minds. Human decision making was greatly affected by the Fall and the entrance of sin into the world. The very humanity that was created to steward God’s world, to help it flourish, was drawn toward idolatry and injustice, and these sins have a devastating effect on all aspects of God’s good world.

For example, the sin of greed can often lead companies to be careless with the disposal of harmful chemicals, polluting our rivers and having a negative impact on the lives of plants, animals, and humans alike. Furthermore, making an idol out of efficiency can lead to short-term planning and development policies that lead to the extinction of whole species of plants and animals that God has created.

Sin affects the physical creation, but God goes to great lengths to preserve and protect his good world.

Many of us are familiar with the story of Noah, and how God preserves all types of animals from the flood by commanding Noah to build an ark. It’s also fascinating to note that when the flood subsides, God makes a covenant not just with Noah, but with the animals as well. That’s right, God actually makes a covenant with animals.

God says, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth” (Gen 9:9-10, ESV).

God promises not to destroy the world through a flood again. He has a different plan for how to deal with human sin and it’s destructive ways. He sends his son to die for the redemption of all creation, the physical world included (John 3:16, Col 1:15-21).

Creation now waits in eager expectation for the future restoration of all things, and a future when it will be free to flourish, without the trappings of sin and brokenness in this world. As Paul writes to the Romans, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:19-21, ESV).

Not caring for creation can be a symptom of a narrow view of sin and the scope of its effects. However, the Gospel is just as comprehensive. As my favorite Christmas hymn Joy to the World exclaims, “He comes to make his blessings flow as far as the curse is found.”

The Gospel is good news for sinners—and it is good news for a good creation affected by sin.

Jim Mullins

Husband, dad, pastor, gardener, and resident of Tempe.

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