How can we as a church embrace a more comprehensive approach to spiritual formation and discipleship?
That was the question I posed at the end of this past Sunday’s sermon in an effort to spark some creative thinking about what it might look like for us to become more diligent caretakers of creation. After seeing from Scripture how Jesus has come to reconcile all things to God, I suggested that the church has the privilege of joining God in his renewal and restoration of all things. As Christians, we need to incorporate this responsibility into our pursuit of faithfulness as followers of Jesus.
But the question that I’m left with is still this: How?
To answer that question is a hard task. It requires familiarity with scientific data, a working knowledge of complex political dynamics, exposure to what is already being done and what isn’t, a perspective informed by global environmental conditions, and a whole lot more. I don’t know about you, but that feels pretty overwhelming.
But the more I think about it, the more I suspect that for Christians, the journey toward greater environmental stewardship begins with something much more basic and yet much more profound: a sense of delight and wonder. In order to exercise dominion the way we were designed to, we have to allow God to truly knock our socks off with the beauty of his created world.
It’s not that those other issues are irrelevant. At some point we need to wade into them and start sorting them out. But we can debate environmental policy all day long and still miss the point if we’re not approaching the questions from a perspective of reverential awe.
This is precisely what separates the Christian from the secular environmentalist. We aren’t committed to this earth because of some utilitarian sense of obligation. We’re committed to the earth because it is a lavish and incredible expression of God’s creative love.
I recall the first months after proposing to my wife and giving her a shiny diamond engagement ring. I was thrilled to see how careful she was not to scratch it, how she took it regularly to be cleaned, how she would make sure it never got misplaced. Why did she do these things? Because she loved me. And as a result of that love, she cherished this over-the-top, probably-too-expensive gift that I had given her.
In the same way, our care of creation should begin with a deep sense of love for the one who created it and a deep sense of appreciation for the quality of his work.
Michael Reeves writes, “As it is, there is something gratuitous about creation, an unnecessary abundance of beauty, and through its blossoms and pleasures we can revel in the sheer largesse of the Father” (Delighting in the Trinity). Those concepts of gratuitousness, abundance, and largesse are appropriate. How else can we describe the artistic intricacies of a peacock’s feather or the staggering magnitude of countless sprawling galaxies?
In my own home recently we’ve been introducing our kids to BBC’s Planet Earth series in an effort to help them discover the wonder of what God has made. It’s thrilling to watch them respond to what they’re seeing. Sometimes they’re fascinated. Sometimes they’re grossed out. (And to be honest, sometimes they’re bored.) But through it all, what I hope is that they’ll begin to marvel. Because surely this is the foundation of a life of stewardship.
When we stop and think about it, we’re privileged as God’s people to be tenants in the most luxurious, vast, and beautiful residence ever created. May we never grow bored of our surroundings. May we never lose the wonder of our cosmic neighborhood. May we always rejoice in God’s handiwork as we see it continually displaying his matchless glory.