Why Care About the Earth?

One of the thrilling promises given to us by Paul is that “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21, NIV). This passage, in tandem with Acts 3:18-21, speaks of the future when Jesus Christ will return and with His followers establish His messianic kingdom, which, according to evangelical theologians, will be on this present earth.

Our “heavenly citizenship” tells us who our true Sovereign is and to whom we owe allegiance. And His kingdom is actually going to come to earth. That’s what we pray for in “the Lord’s Prayer,’ and what the apostle John tells us about in the Revelation (Rev. 21:6). That understanding should keep us from carelessness regarding God’s good creation. Poet T. S. Eliot, a friend of C. S. Lewis, gave believers a good point to ponder in his poem “Choruses From the Rock”: “‘Our citizenship is in Heaven;’ yes, but that is the model and type for [our] citizenship upon earth.” (p.100; T. S. Eliot, Collected Poems 1909-1935; Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich; 1936)

The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ provided not only for the salvation of mankind, but also for the restoration (Rom. 8:21) and reconciliation of the whole creation (Colossians 1:20). Our nonhuman co-worshipers—the stars, the land, the animals, the plants—will share our return to pre-Fall conditions which, as suggested by John Wesley, may even exceed the glories of the original creation (John Wesley Sermon #60 “The General Deliverance,” Section III, 1872).

What remarkable things might be accomplished if we lived on the fallen earth today in light of the way we expect to live on the restored earth tomorrow? We believe that through the process of sanctification we can become more like Christ. Are we to assume that sanctification improves relationships only between man and God and between man and man, and not between man and the natural world? The influential Bible scholar and Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer challenged us in this area: “God’s calling to the Christian now, and to the Christian community, in the area of nature – just as it is in the area of personal Christian living in true spirituality – is that we should exhibit a substantial healing here and now between man and nature and nature itself, as far as Christians can bring it to pass” (Pollution and the Death of Man: The Christian View of Ecology, Tyndale House, 1970 p.69).

We ought to always remember this: to abuse the earth is to profane the handiwork of God.

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