When asked what things people associated with the phrase “the environment”, several Moody Bible Institute undergraduate students immediately responded with “liberal”. One student replied, “political agendas”, and yet another answered that he thought of “mostly Al Gore and the Green Peace people downtown that are always annoying me”. Also, a student said he didn’t want to get involved in environmental concerns “because it’s generally associated with other liberal beliefs”. This response was common among the 30 Moody students surveyed this month; the majority did not want to be involved in environmental issues because of the political connotations. Likewise, this is a common sentiment for republican evangelicals. But should it be?
If God created the earth and Christ sustains all that is in it, why should we dismiss caring for God’s creation as a liberal ploy? How should believers view the idea of environmental conservation? In biblically approaching the issue, we see that Christians have been given responsibility to steward the earth; Genesis 1:26 describes man as having dominion over the land. Many people assume “dominion” is a statement that implies taking advantage of the earth as one desires. However, the first part of the verse describes how God declares, “let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth”. God does grant people power over the land and its inhabitants, but he does this all in the context of making man in His image. Christians must consider what it means to rule as God would rule; He is just, but He is also gracious and nurturing; He does not exploit, but He lovingly supports the things He has made.
Believers sometimes comment that “the earth is just going to burn up anyway” and therefore it is unnecessary to spend time conserving the land. However, this thinking is not logically consistent with our view of other things because, if people truly believed that, no one should care about things that do not last forever; it would be unnecessary to meet the physical needs of people or be concerned whether others have food or drink since these bodies will decay and cease to exist. Yet Jesus makes it very clear in Matthew 25 that we are to be concerned about these temporal matters.
Caring for the earth is bound up with caring for people. Jesus declared that the second greatest commandment in Scripture is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). In order to do so, Christians must care for the land that people are living in, for the air they breathe and the water they drink. A large environmental issue now is the clean water crisis. According to UNICEF, about one in every five children under the age of five dies because of a water-related disease worldwide. If we are to be obedient to Christ’s command to love our neighbor as ourself, we should have as much concern for our neighbor’s drinking water as for our own. This is not liberalism; this is obedience to our Creator and Redeemer Jesus Christ.
It is too easy to derive our views on the environment from our political party or news anchor. We have a far more trustworthy source of Truth in God’s Word, and its message to us is more likely to challenge us than it is to inform us that everything is fine in its existing state. We must stop seeing “the environment” as all liberal schemes and left-winged nonsense, and instead see the children with birth defects caused by mercury pollution, people with persistent asthma attacks from air pollution, the impoverished infected with fatal diseases because of unsanitary water, and devastation of the land that is suppose to point others to God and bring Him glory (Romans 1:19).
Christians must be greater critical thinkers; may a deeper understanding of the biblical basis for creation care and seeing the issue holistically lead us to a more thoughtful approach to all matters. Our goal as believers is not to be a political conservative or liberal; it is to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.
“UNICEF – Health – ‘Diarrhoea: Why Children Are Still Dying and What Can Be Done’.”UNICEF – UNICEF Home. 14 Oct. 2009. Web. <http://www.unicef.org/health/index_51412.html>.