Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Creation Care and Stewardship of Righteousness

Forty years ago this past April, I joined one of the first Earth Day gatherings and experienced the growing wave of interest in the “environmental movement” of the 1970's. Attention was focused on “pollution”, pesticides, population growth, and the politics of Vietnam and the cold war era. Many would agree that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) born in that era has had a positive role in reducing pollution and pesticides. The decades of the 1980's brought increased prosperity and an end to “the cold war.”

As the “walls came down” between East and West in Europe, and the economy began to ride the wave of computers and the internet, there was less concern about “the environment.” That is until scientists and politicians in the late 1980's began to turn our attention to what appeared to be a series of steadily increasing global temperatures. During the same period, Lynn White’s “Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis” gained traction among some evangelicals because of his charge that Christianity was responsible for a growing “arrogance toward nature.” Some evangelical leaders and biblically literate scientists joined in significant discussions and wrote influential books and papers that emphasized the Christian’s responsibility to steward the Earth.

The growing visibility of the church in discussions of “the environment” in the 1990's caught the attention of astute politicians who recognized that their acknowledgment of Christian teachings could provide a powerful link to the value systems, and hence, the political will of the electorate. The seeds, not all bad, of the most recent “green movement” were planted and have since been warmed and watered by growing concerns about “climate change” and the growing disparity between the rich and the poor. Unlike the environmental movement of the 1960's and 70's, today’s movement has a large following in Protestant and Catholic churches who are aware of Christian responsibility toward God’s creation and toward the poor among us.

So, as we enter the second decade of the 2000's, and read of “global energy cap and trade” legislation, oil spewing in the gulf, and global economic woes, how are you doing as a “steward of the environment and in your exercise of “creation care?” Do you recycle? Is your church into recycling? Got your reusable cloth grocery bags? Drive a hybrid? Do you see connections between growth in Christian character and the discipline of rejecting materialism? Have you become more aware of the plight of the poor and the disenfranchised, and been able to turn greater compassion into appropriate action?

Today, it is not uncommon to meet sincere Christians who are learning to apply biblical teachings of “creation care” to their decision making in regard to lifestyle, community actions, economics, and political persuasion. Many of the principles that influence our attitudes and actions have been discussed here in this blog. Indeed, as this writer and other more prominent writers have emphasized (see resources below), Christian environmentalism and evangelism need not be at odds. I believe Christian environmental stewardship can provide a solid biblical foundation on which to build a life and a home that can be salt and light in a world that has lost its moorings and is adrift on the waves of moral relativism, economic materialism, and scientific naturalism.

However, our exercise of environmental stewardship can easily be hijacked by those who, for one reason or another, do not have a commitment to biblical stewardship. The quality of our corporate efforts depends upon biblically committed leadership. If I am serving in a leadership role, I must first exercise stewardship of my individual relationship with God and my accountability to Him above all. That is, I must sanctify Christ as Lord in my heart (I Peter 3:15a) each day. In the words of Oswald Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest, December 23), I must “Get alone with Jesus and either tell Him that [I] do not want sin to die out in [me]; or else tell Him that at all costs [I] want to be identified with His death.” When we surrender to God’s Spirit in the quietness of the morning, He sometimes lets us see “what we would be like if it were not for Himself; it is a justification of what He said - Without Me ye can do nothing." Here, in the morning with our Creator and Redeemer, we can evaluate our motives and our lifestyles – why we recycle, conserve energy, care about those who are poor both materially and spiritually. Then, we are ready to enter the new day and into the wider circles in relationships with our family, church, community, and government. With God’s help, we are ready to give an answer to everyone who asks [us] to give an account for the hope that is in [us], yet with gentleness and reverence (I Peter 3:15b).

The Gospel of the cross that saved us individually is the same Gospel that can keep us accountable before God in a “stewardship of righteousness” that we received under the blood of Christ’s cross. If we are to exercise lifestyle and leadership in “biblical environmental stewardship” amid the highly politicized winds and waves of “climate change,” “cap and trade”, and “environmental-social justice,” we must begin each day at the feet of the One Who created us and the Earth; and then, allowed us, in our sin, to drive the rusty, refined ore from the Earth through His hands and feet.

Lord of Heaven, and Creator of Earth, remind us daily that any righteousness (right-ness) that we possess is not our own but has been bought with a great price, the blood of Christ. Help us to exercise “stewardship of Your righteousness.” May we not speak pridefully as the Pharisee, who prayed thus to himself, God I thank You that I am not like other people [like the tax collector]. Let us rather pray like the tax collector: God be merciful to me, a sinner. May our lives in private and in the public arena be seen by You and others as covered in the righteousness of Christ. May there be an obvious and evident link between Your righteousness in us and the lifestyle and leadership we exercise before others. Help us to walk with You daily; and then, discern what is right living and use of the material, time, and opportunity that you entrust to us. Then, may we relate biblically with others and their strong passions for justice and right-ness toward the Earth and the “less fortunate” in a manner that reflects our Lord’s concern when He said, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” Amen.

Related Resources:
Creation Care and Christian Character
Creation Care– Doing It Our Way?

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