Continuing our series on Evangelicals and the Environment, I thought I’d focus more time today on reason # 6 as to why Evangelical Christians should care more about the world that God has made:
6. God’s love for all creation points to it. God so lovingly cares for all of His wonderful creatures – and we should too. ”If not a sparrow falls…” If you’re in doubt about this read Genesis One and Two, and then Psalm 104.
I’m thinking here of God’s love and care for our fellow creatures, from greatest to the least. You know, we often think of “the environment” as something other than us. The very language of “environment” lends itself to this perspective. However, when we think of “creation” we find that we are on the same side of the great divide as all the other creatures. We all have been created by the same God. Yes, human beings are created in God’s image, and have a role to play as his representatives (# 3) and image bearers, but that does not change the fact that we are just part of God’s creation – along with all the other creatures God has made.
I am not going to undertake an exhaustive study here. I simply want to show from a few biblical passages why I believe that God cares for His creatures, and why, if He cares, so should we.
Well, Genesis One comes to mind immediately. It is hard to read the account of the days of creation without getting a sense of God’s profound delight in His handiwork. Looking out upon His work he proclaimed it to be good. That means he was pleased, happy with it, and things were as they should be. It is worth noting that much of the same language is used to describe non human creation as human creation. “And God blessed them.” “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” “And God saw that it was good.” So we are struck at the Creator’s delight in all of his creatures, in their diversity, their noises, their colors, their ways of moving around, their reproduction, their beauty. He looked out over his handiwork and declared with joy, “It is good.”
Genesis Two (don’t worry, we’re not going to cover every chapter in the Bible!) also gives us a sweet picture of God’s care for his creatures. Adam was alone. He needed a suitable opposite. So God made many and various creatures from the ground (as he had made Adam) and presented them before Adam. Though none of them would fit the bill (Adam needed Eve), one senses both in God’s presentation of the animals to Adam, and in Adam’s naming of them, a tender love and care for these animals.
Genesis Nine gives us a special glimpse into God’s care as well. Not only did God have Noah build an ark so that the many animal species would continue on after the flood (why bother if He cared little for them – it would have been a lot easier to build a smaller ark), but after the flood God made a covenant with every living creature that He would not again destroy the earth. Yes, God made a promise to all the animals that he would never again flood the earth. Wow!
I skip to the book of Job. When it comes time for God to shut Job up, he does so in most unusual fashion. ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” And he goes in the next three chapters to describe the majesty and beauty and glory of the creatures of the earth! Look for yourself in chapters 39-41. There is only one word to describe God sentiments towards the creatures he has made – and that word is love!
Off to the Psalms. The Psalms are rich in speaking about the animals of the earth. I love the hymn, “All Creatures of Our God and King.” It is a rough paraphrase of Psalm 150 where every creature upon the earth that has breath is called upon to praise and give glory to God. The birds in their chirping and cows in their mooing are not JUST making animal noises – they are praising God – giving Him glory. And God gives them glory back. Read Psalm 104, an extended peon of praise of God the creator and sustainer of the universe. See the affection, the love, the admiration that the Psalmist has for God’s creation, and for God who cares in such detail for the animals of the earth, providing for their needs, giving life, and taking away life when it’s time. And all this concludes with “O Lord, how manifold are your works, in wisdom you have made them all, the earth is full of your creatures!”
I love the way it is put in Psalm 50:10-11: “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hill, and all that moves in the field is mine.” He not only made them, and cares for them, he knows them!
Now to Isaiah. Though there is much in the prophets spoken against the abuse of the land which was not given its Sabbaths, and not allowed to lay fallow as required in the law, the passage I draw attention to is Isaiah’s great prophecy of the New Heaven and New Earth. Not only will this New World bring peace to mankind, and remove the curse that has afflicted him so, it will bring peace to the world of animals, where, it is said, “the wolf and the lamb shall graze together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” Though we tend to idolize nature “red in tooth and claw” this present period of animals devouring one another does not seem to fit God’s intended will for them. It is not just human beings who will know the peace of the final kingdom, but the beasts as well. I mean, why even mention them if their fate is not significant?
And then there is Jesus. At first glance Jesus didn’t seem to speak all that much about the creatures of the earth. But looking closer he did say some important things. Of course he was a keen observer of creation. He loved to use animals in his illustrations. But perhaps most significantly, in a passage designed to show God’s care for His human children, Jesus also reveals the Father’s heart toward the least of the animals. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny. But not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Here we see that the Father’s care for even this lowliest of birds. He is aware when even one of them falls to the ground. The passage suggests that he seems to care. It is not brute omniscience, but loving providence that is being referenced here. God’s care extends to the death of even the lowly sparrow.
Well, after a short visit to Revelation I’ll stop. But make note of this: when the 24 elders and the mighty creatures of heaven stand before the great throne of God, and give him glory, what do they say: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory, honor, and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created.” By the Father’s express will all things, including the wonderful and varied birds of the air and fishes of the sea and creatures of the earth, were created. Each has a special place in God’s purpose. Each brings glory to God. And God is praised for his great wisdom in creating all things.
Even inanimate earth has significance as being created by God. But how much more even those creatures animated by the spirit of life (Psalm 104:30). Animals have a rightful glory and sanctity by virtue of the One who made them. No, they are not made “in His image.” But they do bring him glory and joy. When a lonely lost animal wanders out onto a road and is killed by a car, and is then run over time and time again, it reflects a callous disregard for that which God holds valuable. When species which God obviously took delight in creating disappear due to our greed and carelessness and brutality, do we think that that makes God happy? Do we imagine that He is neutral on the subject? I don’t think so.
One day all creation will be both more wild and more tame at the same time. It will be more wild in that the curse will have lifted, peace will reign, and every creature will naturally be what it is most meant to be. They will be free. But, the interaction of all creatures will be different. There will be no war between beasts, or between man and the beasts. There will be peace. All creation will have its rightful place in the abundance of life that gives glory to God the creator.
All life created by God is worthy of a certain reverence. Even if we are allowed to eat of the meat of other creatures, it should not be done callously, and the beasts should not be treated contrary to their nature and good just to bring us marbled meat to grill on a fire. How we treat our fellow creatures matters.
I have known few people mean to animals who were not also mean to people.
It does not lessen us to look more highly upon our fellow creatures. They are smarter, more sensitive, and more amazing than we have yet to realize. One day we will feel great sorrow over how we have desecrated and disrespected these wonderful fellow creatures. We can start changing attitudes now. I hope that we do.