In the beginning…
Three simple words begin one of the most influential and controversial books in history. The mere mention of these words will cause some to become excited, some to be defensive and others to shut down. Wars have been fought over the implication of the words in this book; families and friends have been divided by their understanding of this book; churches throughout history have been torn apart over the debates this book raises.
The Bible has been at the center of many conflicts. History has been shaped—and often disrupted—by what different people interpret the Bible to be saying. However, somewhere in the midst of all the arguing, much of the Church community has neglected to start the conversation where it should: In the beginning.
The first two chapters of Genesis speak of how creation began. These two chapters serve as the opening to our understanding of God, our planet, each other and ourselves. Both chapters are loaded with deep implications for what it means to live the life God intends.
Neglecting the importance of Genesis 1 and 2 creates many misconceptions. Where you believe a story begins shapes the story you are telling—and oftentimes, the Church begins its understanding of the Christian message by starting in Genesis 3.
Chapter three of Genesis speaks of mankind’s rebellion against God, the Fall and the introduction of sin. When we begin the story here, our message centers on the removal of sin. Salvation becomes reduced to nothing more than an answer to how to avoid hell.
But salvation is about more than just a ticket to heaven. It is the answer to everything and is the introduction of a new creation that is bursting forth, here and now, and reconciling the world with God’s peace. Christianity is God working through us, by the same power that brought the world into existence and raised Jesus from the grave (Romans 8:11) to bring about His plan to reconcile us with Him, His creation and humanity as a whole.
To begin to grasp this, we must start with an understanding of how God intended things to be. We must start in the beginning.
Though recently there has been a slight shift in focus, environmental issues have typically been ignored by the Church. Conversations about environmental issues are often passed off as either myth, scientific folly or of no importance. The focus placed on evangelistic efforts has made the argument that anything outside of one’s eternal security is not worth the attention of Church efforts. However, in a view of Christianity that begins in Genesis 1 and 2, there is a drastically different understanding of our world that needs to be discovered.
In the beginning, man was created in a garden.
In the second chapter of Genesis, we’re given an account of man’s creation, in which verse 15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it”(NIV). One of God’s plans for mankind is that we should care for the world we have been placed in. There is a vital need for the Church to reclaim an understanding of God’s way as one that includes the proper care and ordering of our world. The use of and care for our planet is a deeply spiritual issue, which is rooted all the way back to our very creation. There are drastic implications for our ignoring the issues that continue to weigh upon creation itself.
This is not the proper care for God’s garden. Some people have taken God’s command to “rule the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28) and twisted it to attempt to reign over creation as dictators, rather than using our God-given authority to order creation in such a way that cultivates growth, responsibility and respect.
It’s time that the Church reclaims its God-instilled responsibility to care for the creation it has been blessed with. It’s time the environmental issues plaguing our world be understood as a result of the selfish nature which drives us, and our planet, from being what we were created to be. Our world must no longer be seen as a temporary holding place, but as a blessing that is the responsibility of all mankind to share. It’s time to reconcile with the planet itself, care for it, and properly partake in a way that is better for everyone and everything. It’s time to see creation care not as elevation of creation above the Creator, but as a way of worshiping the Creator and caring for His creation.
It’s time that we see a more environmentally-conscious Christianity as an aspect of taking part in the Kingdom of God today.