Does “environmentalism” have any place in a Christian worship service or in Sunday School? Some say no, others yes. This question is really a red herring from a biblical perspective.
The “environment” is actually God’s creation, which includes people, God’s other creatures and the land. Does the Bible say anything about God being the Creator? Given that pollution and environmental degradation hurt people, especially the poor, does the Bible say anything about how you are to treat your neighbor and seek justice for the poor? And how about proper stewardship of resources and care for God’s other creatures?
The Bible is filled with responses to these questions. Christians must express love for God and neighbor by living lives of righteousness toward God and neighbor—thereby fulfilling the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. This includes loving all of God’s creation by caring for it.
Creation is God’s provision for our neighbor. God’s creation provides us and our neighbors with clean air, water, food and beautiful places for restoration and contemplation. We must care for these gifts out of love for God and neighbor.
Over the past several decades many churches have begun to celebrate the gift of God’s creation on the Sunday that falls closest to Earth Day, which is always on April 22.
At the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), we call this annual emphasis Creation Sunday. While we have designated April 21 as Creation Sunday this year, we encourage churches to celebrate Creation Sunday when it best suits their circumstances.
This year’s Creation Sunday theme is “Celebrating Christ’s Reconciliation of All Creation.” This theme is designed to put human response to the problems facing God’s creation in a biblical and theological context. Facts highlighting these problems include:
- More than one in three Americans lives in areas with unhealthy air.
- Over 1 billion people still lack access to safe water, and nearly 2 billion people lack safe sanitation. More than 3 million people still die every year from avoidable water-related disease.
- Approximately 10,000 to 25,000 species disappear every year.
But, as Colossians 1:19-20 proclaims:
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness 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” (NIV).
Christians are called to participate in God’s reconciliation through Christ. Creation Sunday helps the church understand and live out the creation-care dimension of Christ’s reconciliation.
Ten years ago at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, world leaders recognized the serious environmental problems facing God’s creation. This year, world leaders will gather in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the World Summit on Sustainable Development from Aug. 26 through Sept. 4. Leaders will focus on pollution and human health, pollution and poverty, and a host of issues related to how humanity treats the rest of God’s creation.
In light of the current problems God’s creation faces, the World Summit has an ambitious meeting and agenda. From a biblical perspective, if such meetings actually result in creation-care, they are part of a larger, indeed cosmic, movement of God in Christ. This year’s Creation Sunday theme, “Celebrating Christ’s Reconciliation of All of Creation,” recognizes that positive outcomes from the World Summit participate in the work of Christ.
Pollution, environmental degradation and protection of God’s creation present all Christians with new opportunities to love God by loving what God loves, and to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, as we strive to be his ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:14-21).
Jim Ball is executive director of the Evangelical Environmental Network and publisher of Creation Care magazine.
For more information:
Visit EEN’s website for Creation Sunday resources designed to help pastors, worship leaders and teachers.
Click here for resources from the National Council of Churches.
Click here for information about the World Summit.
Click here for information about this year’s Earth Day celebrations.
Jim Ball is Executive Vice President for Policy and Climate Change at the Evangelical Environmental Network and author of the award-winning book, “Global Warming and the Risen LORD: Christian Discipleship and Climate Change.”