Today Pastor Choi exhorts God’s people to be a sensible steward of God’s creation. Creation care begins with the restoration of broken relationships between God and us, between us and others, and between people and nature. Creation care only succeeds when we are faithful to God, merciful to one another, and sensible stewards of God’s creation.
The following is a summary of the sermon:
Creation Care Genesis 1:28 (NASB)
God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
On April 22, in many parts of the world, people celebrate the Earth Day.
It’s a good thing that all nations work together with a common goal to build a clean, healthy, safe environment for future generations to enjoy and live in.
Earth Day addresses many environmental issues such as oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife. It promotes clean air, clean water, and green energy.
There also has been a charge that environmentalists care more about birds than people. So, now, some people want to put people back, especially the poor, at the center of the movement. An article in the Christian Science Monitor reads, “This Earth Day, let’s focus on people. Environmentalists go on about the loss of endangered species and degraded coral reefs. But we barely mention people – nature’s biggest beneficiaries. This Earth Day, let’s put human well-being at the center of things, and make explicit the value of nature to our everyday lives” (M. Sanjayan / April 20, 2012. the Christian Science Monitor).
I agree. Let’s not forget people. I dare to say, though, in this earth care movement we forget the most important partner: God. Did you know God is the first environmentalist and the first whistle blower in the history of the earth care? Almost three thousand years ago, He brought a charge against the polluters of the land (Isaiah 24:5, Hosea 4:1-3)—I will get to this later. In today’s world, His name is barely mentioned, if ever,—God the Creator, the Sustainer, and the ever-gracious Benefactor. If we want to succeed in the earth care, we need the whole picture. In order to see the whole picture, we must consider every party involved (God, humans, and nature all together). In fact, it’s the only way that will work. Without God the Creator/Sustainer in the picture, no environmental movement would succeed. God is the author of a holistic solution to the environmental issues today.
This is where my creation care idea differs from the secular version of “Save-the-Earth.” My approach is: God – people – creation in that order. The secular approach is: environment – people in that order with no God in it. We may do some things in common like recycling and using energy efficient bulbs, yet the two approaches are fundamentally different. My approach would say, “Let’s seek God’s wisdom, listen to Him, and do what God commands us to do.” The secular earth care says, “Look, this earth is the only thing you’ve got. You’d better take good care of it.”
So I begin with God.
In the beginning God created lights and creatures first that are non-human (sun, moon, stars, birds, plants, fish, and animals) for five days; at the end of each day of creation, God looked at His own work and said it was good (Genesis 1:3, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). On the sixth day, He created human-beings; when He looked at the humans, male and female, He said it was very good (Genesis 1:31). At first, every creation of God worked and operated in perfect harmony and balance that pleased the Lord. The ensuing creation story, however, doesn’t have a fairy tale ending: they didn’t live happily ever after.
“What did cause the imbalance and disharmony in God’s creation?” we may wonder. The Bible says sin. Sin caused it. Sin has entered and permeated into the world: pride, selfishness, idolatry, hatred, murder, greed, and jealousy. They entered in the history of the world and adversely affected the entire creation. God, humans, and non-humans all suffered from it ever since. Sin is the cause. Pollution of the world is the effect. The Bible says so.
Listen to the Word of the LORD in Isaiah 24:5. : “The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant.”
Listen to God one more time in Hosea 4:1-3. “Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel, For the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is no faithfulness or kindness Or knowledge of God in the land. 2 There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed. 3 Therefore the land mourns, And everyone who lives in it languishes Along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky, And also the fish of the sea disappear.”
Both times the Lord points out that all God’s creation (land, people, the beasts, the birds, and the fish) mourn and languish because of the inhabitants of the land and particularly their transgressions against God (swearing) and against each other (deception, murder, stealing, adultery, and violence).
Sin has broken the relationships among the three parties: God, humans, and non-humans. Let’s take a closer look.
1. God and Humans. In the beginning, God set the boundaries for humans (Genesis 2:16-17). Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were consequently thrown out from Eden.
2. Humans and humans. The first murder in human history took place in Adam’s family and innocent blood was shed on the ground (Genesis 4:8). Since then, it was a downward spiral. By the time of Noah, the sin in the world was so bad that the Lord grieved that he had made humankind (not the other creatures) on the earth. His heart was filled with pain that He had to start anew (Genesis 6:6).
3. Humans and non-humans. Humans kept abusing and misusing the God-given resources without providing proper care (we misinterpreted Genesis 1:28 and subdued the environment without mercy). Creation eagerly awaits the day of redemption: “22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Romans 8:22). “The creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19).
The real question is: how do we bring back the order, balance, and harmony among all three parties? By fixing the broken relationships among the parties. Once the broken relationships are restored, then the order, balance, and harmony will be naturally restored as well. Please notice here the order of brokenness, because in the same order we will find the proper restoration: Be faithful to God. Be merciful to each other. Be a sensible steward. Let me explain to you one by one.
a. Sin of breaking the Sabbath: there can be so many areas where we should restore our broken relationship with God, but let me suggest one thing today: that we start with the Sabbath. It’s worth repeating the Fourth Commandment:
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20:8-11).
The whole idea of the Sabbath is that we rest one day a week: a complete stop from labor and rest. God set the example before us: He Himself took a rest from His work on the seventh day. He commands us to do the same. Imagine a town where everyone takes a rest on Sunday at the same time. That’s the beauty and key of the Sabbath. Everyone at the same time. God’s simple solution is still relevant, yet our society doesn’t follow it any longer.
Remember the Blue Laws? America used to close the stores on Sunday until the 1960s. Then, it began to vanish 50 years ago. A few stores began to open Sundays, then the majority followed suit. Now, opening the stores on Sunday is a norm in our society. Keeping the Sabbath holy became a rarity even among the Christians. We are all guilty of violating the Fourth Commandment, are we not? Myself included.
Personally I believe shopping on Sundays hurt our society rather than help. Why? Not because shopping and pleasure activities themselves are evil, but because they take our time away from rest. More activities mean more energy spent and less rest taken. None of us is an Energizer Bunny, yet we think and act like one. No wonder, back to work on Monday morning, many of us are sluggish. Furthermore, environmentally speaking, keeping the stores open on Sunday means more electricity needs to be generated, more traffic for shoppers, more CO2, and more family time taken away from the employees, let alone that of shoppers. Maybe, I am living in a fantasy world myself, but I believe it doable (otherwise, God wouldn’t command us to do it) and God will honor those who honor Him by keeping the Sabbath holy. Here are a couple of positive examples: 1) B & H Store in NYC. Business (both store and online store) is shut down during Sabbath and Passover. 2) Chick-Fil-A company. Stores are closed on Sundays. Truett Cathy, the founder, says, “I don’t want to ask people to do that what I am not willing to do myself” (Golden Rule). Both of them thrive with God’s blessings.
b. Sins of Hate, murder, jealousy, greed, and violence among nations: we need to restore peace among us. One way to do it is Jubilee—God’s concept of debt cancellation.
What is Jubilee? In a nutshell, it is the year of release from debt. Listen to the Word of God. The Lord then spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord…You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land. You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you (Leviticus 25:1-4, 8-10, NASB).
Application: imagine the world where everyone, both individuals and nations, practices a universal debt cancellation [forgiveness—remember the Lord’s Prayer]. How wonderful would it be? Not a far-fetched idea, either. E.g. Japan three years ago said it would forgive about 300 billion yen ($3.7 billion) of Myanmar’s debt and resume development aid as a way to support the country’s democratic and economic reforms (ABC News 4/21/2012).
c. Sins of Greed and Abuse: Although we have been making a progress on this, we still have a long way to go. One thing we Christians must remember is this: we are the stewards, not the owners of God’s creation. The earth doesn’t belong to us. Neither do we belong to the earth. Both belong to God who has entrusted in our hands the care of the earth. Being God’s stewards means that God will hold us accountable. God will reward those who fear His name and will destroy those who destroy the earth (Revelation 11:18).
Application: Never waste God-given resources but use with care. E.g. A study shows the less consuming of meat helps to reduce the global warming: nearly 80 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions (of foods) come from producing and processing food. (http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2011/10/07/141123243/how-that-food-you-throw-out-is-linked-to-global-warming). So, my suggestion is to eat less meat. E.g. My personal habit of eating half of the food at restaurant and bring the other half home.
We have a job to do: creation care (Romans 8:19). Creation care begins with bringing God back into the picture. We need to restore our broken relationships with God, with each other and with God’s creation. We can only be responsible stewards of God’s creation when we keep God’s commandments, when we are merciful to each other, and when we treat God’s creation with the sense of accountability.