I’ve just come back from preaching at a church that used little plastic disposable cups for communion. Probably about 500 were used which equates to about 26,000 little plastic cups in a year (never mind the throw-away coffee cups it also used).
And so what? This was a lively, large church with a thriving ministry both within and without its walls. Why does it matter if it uses and throws away hundreds of little plastic cups every week?
It matters because it highlights just how much of a blind spot the church has. Whilst doing all sorts of excellent things, it has missed the point that the gospel is good news not for people alone but for the whole of God’s creation – and therefore don’t we want to live our lives and conduct our activities accordingly?
As Christians we have something very, very unique to offer: hope. The gospel is a hopeful message and it is exciting that we can be a part of it, sharing and bringing that hope to both people and planet: the whole of God’s creation.
The Bible affirms five key things that show me why caring for the planet is part of being a disciple:
1. God made the world and he loves it
God is the creator of the world and he thinks it is, ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). God is involved with his creation, sustaining it and caring for it (Psalm 65:9-13; Matthew 10:29; Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17). This is not anti-evolution (the Genesis creation stories teach us theology not science), but an affirmation that this world has a greater being behind it and has a purpose. If God loves this world so much (John 3:16), don’t we too want to love and value what he has made?
2. God created us to look after the world
We are created beings, part of the whole community of creation, one part of an intricately connected ecosystem. But we have also been given a special task: to look after the rest of what God has made, to be his ‘image bearers’ (Genesis 1: 26-28; Gen. 2:15). This is not an optional extra for a few keen environmentalists, but a fundamental part of what it means to be both human. We become less than human when we lose that connection and forget that the world wasn’t made for us – we were made for the world!
3. It has gone wrong because of us
It is a sad truth that the many problems our world and its inhabitants face are caused by human activity. Our wrongdoing not only separates us from God and has human consequences - it also has ecological consequences (Hosea 4: 1-3; Amos 8: 1-8). We bear the guilt for the state our world is in (Isaiah 24: 4-6) and each one of us has a responsibility to act.
4. Jesus came to this earth for the whole world
The good news is that God is working to put back to rights what has gone wrong. This is why Jesus died, to restore to himself ALL things (Colossians 1: 19-20). Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were not only for the benefit of people but for the benefit of the whole created order (Romans 8: 19-22).
5. God has a purpose for the world and asks us to join in
God has promised that, when Jesus returns, this world will be radically renewed: all that is evil will be destroyed; all that is good will shine out (2 Peter 3: 10; Revelation 21 – 22:6). The Gospel invitation is to follow Jesus and join in: to play our part in working to see justice, peace and ecological healing.
So, let’s get on with it! A Rocha UK’s Eco Church [https://ecochurch.arocha.org.uk/] initiative will give you everything you need to get your church engaged, and to find out much more about how you can live this out as part of your own discipleship, check out https://ruthvalerio.net/ and see the resources that are on there.