This weekend, I am with Great Plains Yearly Meeting, who are gathering for their annual sessions in Wichita, Kansas. The theme of the gathering is ecological stewardship, and in our Bible study we are exploring Paul’s vision of cosmic restoration in Jesus Christ. Especially because many Christians still associate the environmental movement with New Age spiritualism, it is good for us to engage with the ample biblical witness that calls on us to care for God’s creation.
How could we ever have missed it? From start to finish, from Genesis to Revelation, God has consistently revealed that the wages of sin is death – not just for us, but for all life. We learn in the story of the Fall that humanity’s choice to turn away from God is directly connected with the twisting and destruction of the creation. Throughout the Old Testament God repeatedly reminds humanity that the earth belongs to him, and that we are merely tenants in the land. And in the Book of Revelation, we are warned that God will destroy those who destroy the earth!
God has so much more love than we usually imagine possible. Not only does God love each one of us, and all of humanity, with unceasing faithfulness; he loves the whole of his creation just as much! Sitting in Bible study today, the part of the Scripture that spoke most powerfully to me of this immense love was John 3:16. Yes, I know: This is the verse that men paint on their chests at football games. But seriously, look at it:
For God so loved the world [kosmos] that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.
In this verse, the word world is a translation of the Greek word kosmos. Kosmos means the whole of creation, including humanity, but not limited to it. It is this same creation that has been groaning in labor pains for the redemption that comes from God.
Jesus has come to bring healing and fullness to all things! He has come not just for our personal salvation, nor even for the redemption of human beings alone. As followers of Jesus – as children of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – we have the opportunity to share in Christ’s mission of cosmic restoration, speaking peace to the whole earth.
We can feel in our bones that something has gone terribly wrong, not just with our own human existence, but with the entire kosmos. Though it is painful to accept, deep down we know that we are responsible for this disorder, the social and ecological destruction that we have been witnessing for as long as there have been human beings and which in our generation is reaching even greater depths. We know that climate change, environmental degradation, war and disease are all results of our decision to turn away from God and insist on having our own way, on our own timetable.
We know this, both through the revelation given through Scripture and through Christ’s immediate guidance in our lives. We are without excuse. The question is, as it always has been: Will we turn back towards God and allow our lives to be transformed? Will we receive those things that make for peace, wholeness and reconciliation for all of creation? Will we look beyond ourselves and see the boundless love of our Creator, who longs to take us under his wings?