I want us to humbly ask before God the question, should Christians go green? In other words, should we, both individually and collectively, express our love for God in a lifestyle that shares and sustains His creation instead of destroying it? The answer, I believe, is yes we should. And the reason I believe that we should is simple: that God, fundamentally, is ‘green’!
How so you ask? Well, I want to explain to you how the bible teaches us that God is green in four important ways. He:
Created a wonderful ‘green’ world
Commanded a chosen ‘green’ people
Completed the greatest ‘green’ task
Commissioned a glorious ‘green’ future
What does it mean to be green?
Being green is seeking to live every part of our lives and lifestyle in balance with God’s creation and in line with His kingdom values. It is sharing fairly the bounty that His world produces, minimising the harm and maximising the benefits, so that everyone and everything may flourish and prosper both now and in the future: in our children’s world, our grand-children’s world and even our grand-children’s children’s world.
This is in stark contrast to much of what we see in the world around us: the cumulative destruction and injustice of our selfish, wasteful and unsustainable lifestyles and culture. If everyone lived the way we do here in Northern Ireland, we would need three planets instead of one. Something’s not right. The world, and us with it, is out of balance
I don’t want to go into here the practical aspects of going green. Instead I want to focus on why we should, which is where we need to start. But can I refer you to a website called Living Lightly, run by a Christian environmental organisation called A Rocha. They have lots more information and ideas. But I want us to keep this key idea of balance in mind as we now consider how God is, in essence, green.
1. God has created a wonderful green world
In Genesis 1 we read that ‘God saw all that He had made and it was very good’. God has created a world in balance that is wonderfully interconnected; that is self-sustaining; that does not produce waste; and that provides, or should provide, amply for all life on earth
From a completely self-serving point-of-view, creation sustains the human race; without it we could not survive. Nature provides the services, such as pollination, oxygen production, water filtration, and climate regulation, that keep us alive. In economic terms alone these services are worth far more than the entire value of the world economy.
God has created us to depend on this balanced bounty of nature. It is His provision for us and we arrogantly disrupt God’s created order at our peril.
2. God has commanded a chosen green people
Mirroring Genesis 1, Psalm 8 tells us that we have been made rulers over the works of His hands. God’s first command to human beings was not dominate life on earth, as some have mistakenly argued, but to rule over creation as God’s representatives on earth.
The Hebrew word for rule or dominion is ‘radah’, which refers to benign and caring kingship, a shepherding role, as modelled by David, by Solomon and, ultimately, by Jesus Christ, the Servant King.
Elsewhere in the Old Testament, God commands the Israelites to rest the land every number of years, to leave some of their crops for the poor and for wildlife, and to show concern for the welfare of livestock.
God original commandment – to humbly and sensitively exercise our duty of care to the rest of God’s creation – still stands. It is a commandment; it is not an option. So can I respectfully ask: are you are implementing this command in your live and family? Or are you instead being a consumer Christian, shopping through the bible for the bits that don’t impinge on your comfortable and, might I add, unsustainable, middle-class lifestyle? Please think about that seriously.
3. God has completed the greatest green task
It can be downright depressing being an environmentalist sometimes. I have a keen interest in wildlife conservation and I particularly like rhinos. I’ve seen them in the wild and worked with them in captivity. I was reading recently about the illegal trade in rhino horn and the upsurge in poaching this year especially.
I saw a photo of a rhino that had had its horns cut from its face with a chainsaw while it was still alive. It had been left to bleed to death and rot in the sun, its face a splintered mass of tissue, bone and blood. And all because it’s horn – which is nothing more than the material in our fingernails – is worth more, gram for gram, than gold.
Such things cause one to almost despair, to wonder what can be done against such reckless greed. Truly the love of money really is the root of all evil. But even when we see things like this, and all the other evils under the sun, we must not, we dare not, we cannot lose hope.
Because the greatest conservation tool for rhinos, and, for that matter, the greatest environmental, social, political, economic, spiritual, mental and cultural task that has ever been accomplished in the history of the world is this: that Jesus Christ, who was crucified, is risen from the dead.
Colossians 1:19-20 puts it like this: “For God was pleased to have all his fulness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
The cross of Christ is not just about the individual forgiveness of sins, absolutely central though that is – don’t get me wrong. It is also that the powers of sin and death and evil at work in the world have been defeated; that there is structural redemption of all creation, liberated, as Romans 8 puts it, from its bondage to decay. Hope springs eternal.
4. God has commissioned a glorious green future
As Christians we have been commissioned to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, to preach the gospel to all of creation, and to be salt and light in this world
All this is as part of God’s mission to seek the redemption of all creation. How humbling that he chooses to use people like us to fulfill His sovereign will.
And so, relying on God’s power and with His love in our hearts, we can anticipate His glorious green future now, in part by living lifestyles that are in balance with His world, and that share its bounty fairly with others. His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
As we look forward to the day when Christ will return and His creation, and far from being destroyed – which is an excuse many Christians use to justify their lifestyles – will be redeemed and perfectly completed.
Sin and suffering, including animal cruelty and the destruction of His creation, will be gone. Instead there will be a new green heaven and a new green earth, filled with His eternal love and everlasting splendour.
Let us summarise what we have discussed briefly:
God has created a wonderful green world that is sufficient for all if shared fairly.
God has commanded a chosen green people to take care of this world. It’s His, not ours.
God has completed the greatest green task by dying and rising to life again so that sin and evil could be defeated and all creation redeemed.
God has commissioned a glorious green future that He has commanded us to work towards in anticipation of His second coming, and His eternal reign.
In closing, may I encourage us all to follow our green God; to delight in His creation as He does; and, not in a spirit of legalism but in a spirit of love, to humbly open our hearts to the guiding of His Spirit and the leading of His Word so that we may thoroughly examine our lifestyles to see if they really are just, if they really are righteous and if they really are green. That in all thing we might give glory to God.
In short, to the question, ‘Should Christians go green?’, the answer from God’s word is ‘Yes. May we go green for God and tell the world why we are doing so.’
This article is an edited summary of the sermon preached at St Patrick’s, Ballymena, 25th September 2011. Gloria in excelsis Deo.