Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel;
for the Lord has an indictment against the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or loyalty,
and no knowledge of God in the land.
Swearing, lying, and murder,
and stealing and adultery break out;
bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Therefore the land mourns,
and all who live in it languish;
together with the wild animals
and the birds of the air,
even the fish of the sea are perishing.
- Hosea 4:1-3 (NRSV)
Care for creation is a primary obligation of all Christians and yet our environment continues to decline.
More Christians in the United States – mainline and evangelical – are beginning to take these issues seriously and across the pond this week the Archbishop of Canterbury again lent his moral voice to the cause.
When God tells Adam in the first chapter of Genesis that he is to subdue and have dominion over the earth, many would say that this is the beginning of a tragic and disgraceful story – the story of how human beings ravaged and exploited the earth for their own purposes, exhausting its resources and ruining it for future generations. Those who are now most deeply concerned about our environment often accuse the Jewish-Christian tradition of being responsible for a history of greed and abuse directed at the natural world. If we are at last to take our proper responsibility for the earth, we must leave behind this particular religious legacy and find another way of understanding our place on the earth, a way that is more sensitive to the sacredness of our environment.
This is understandable in many ways. But there is much more to be said; and some of it is said in Genesis, some in this morning’s reading from the Gospel. First of all, let’s look at the rest of what our story from Genesis tells us. It says that human beings are made in God’s image; and it tells us that God looked on the whole of what he had made and saw that it was good….
So if humans are to ‘subdue’ the world, the one thing this cannot mean is that they are licensed to treat the creation with indifference or violence or disrespect. The first thing they must do is surely to look at it as God looks; to delight in the joyful order of God’s mind as it is shown in what God makes. Humans must understand that creation is precious to God because it reflects his joy in his own beauty. Before ever human beings are on the scene, creation is looked at by God with this loving joy.
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