Christians Should Embrace Earth/Arbor Days

04.26.10 | Alan Gustafson | Comments[0]

Earth Day is just behind us, and Arbor Day is later this week. Usually around this time of year I will hear someone bemoan the activities of the environmental movement. Most of the time the concern will be over the exaltation of "Mother Nature," whether it is overt or not. And yet I submit to you today that as Christians, we should consider celebrating Earth/Arbor Days.

Now I know someone may be thinking, "Alan, these crazy hippies are just worshiping the earth." Well, aren't there non-Christians involved in helping the poor, perhaps out of purely humanistic motives? And yet if people are receiving the help they need, would we be so quick to frown upon that work? Christians don't remove themselves from charitable work just because somewhere out there a non-believer may be doing it for different reasons. Instead, we embrace it because it is what God calls us to do.

At the same time, doesn't the Lord also call us to protect the earth as well?

"But God gave us dominion over the world!" Yep, he sure did. In Genesis 28, God said, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it." (At this point, I'd say "check!") "Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

Dominion is certainly Biblical. And so is stewardship. To whom much is given, much is expected. In Genesis 2:15, God said, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." There is no command in that verse to exploit. God wanted man to care for His Creation.

Why does it sometimes seem so wrong to protect such a precious gift, and seem right to selfishly protect a comfortable way of life that destroys the world around us?

That statement may bother some, yet I find it to be true. And I am just as guilty of it as well. In 21st century Western culture, much of the time we are ignorant to the costs of our consumption. We go to the store, and pick out a product that we have no idea where it came from. Once its purposed has been fulfilled, we throw it in the trash, never to see it again...as if it's gone forever.

What about the electricity used to power your home...could it be coming from mountaintop removal? That's when energy companies literally blow up the tops of mountains to easily get to coal. It's been happening in this country for the past fifty years. While it is cheaper, it not only destroys the natural beauty of a once majestic landscape, it also buries streams and pollutes others with heavy metals and toxins. Even if the coal is removed from the ground safely, what kind of toxins are released into the air and water when the coal is burned? It makes you wonder how much energy could be saved if you switched to more energy efficient lighting, or if once in a while you dried your clothes outside instead of in the drier? (Never mind the money saved!)

And what about all of those plastic products in the store? Sure, it's convenient and quick to serve plastic silverware and plastic cups at your potluck. But happens to the plastic when you throw it out? The thing that makes plastic so successful is the very same thing that makes it detrimental to the environment: It doesn't break down easily or biodegrade well at all. When plastic does break down, it only breaks down into smaller pieces. And what happens when those bits of plastic are small enough to get your the body? We've seen the effects plastics can have on reproductive and other bodily systems.

Not only do some plastics like PVC have toxic additives, plastics can also be very good at absorbing toxins. Burning plastic simply releases those toxins into the environment and makes recycling much more limited compared to glass or aluminum. On the fifth day of Creation, God said "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky. ...And God saw that it was good." And yet today, there's less fish in the sea and birds in the sky. To see just the effect of what plastics can do to our seas, check out this preview of a future news feature.

While some of this may see overwhelming or scary, it's also what Earth Day was originally about: To raise awareness about environmental issues. Knowing is half the battle. The other half is taking action and slowly finding ways to make your "footprint" on the earth a little smaller. And that's not just cliche environmental speak. You can glean a little from Ekekiel 34:18. God says "Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet?"

This spring, someone will stand up in your church during praise time and reflect on the beauty of the world outside. If they haven't already, they probably will! They'll talk about the blooming flowers and trees, the greening of the grass, and the creatures creeping from their winter slumber. We understand this beauty to be a gift from God. Even David understood that. As he reflect in Psalm 23:1-3, "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul."

We shouldn't merely be concerned about aesthetics. There is a practical aspect as well. God said in Genesis 1:29-30, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." If we poison and destroy the very plants and animals that God has given for this planet to live, we poison and destroy ourselves.

Let's show the world we want to care for what God has so graciously trusted us with. If you believe the whole Earth/Arbor Days celebration has become too focused on nature worship, why not focus on redeeming the day? After all, that's what early Church did with the pagan celebration of the winter solstice. It's now known as "Christmas."

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