I live at the end of the street. In South Asian neighbourhoods, corner houses are both coveted and dreaded. Coveted for being commercial hot spots but dreaded for the hypocritical philanthropist one has to become. All street-end houses are garbage dump yards in the unwritten canon of societal architecture.
When you live in a street-end house you inhale a new stench every day, and there is no dearth of it. If you happen to be an animal lover, this is the place for you. Yours is the fortune home to many street animals. If you are exceedingly blessed, you can become a business tycoon trading manure. For obvious reasons, the unattended garden outside your wall is much greener than your assiduously nurtured kitchen garden.
Mornings are even more exciting. You need no alarm to wake up. The vehicles on the street grace you with their mellifluous honks. I once almost fell off my bed with a horn that grunted like a pig. Every street corner is like a Bermuda triangle; it mysteriously sucks up all wayside plastics to graciously adorn your house.
If nature had a voice, our streets would become wailing walls. If nature chose to protest the human way, it would be an unstoppable roar of agony that no human army could suppress. And yet, nature humbly submits to its abusive nonchalant caretaker—the human!
The jungles are not our living rooms: ocean waves are not our ceilings. So why bother about a creation that appears so distant to us? Jungles and oceans can never replace our gadgets and cars that help earn our livelihood. Such a presumed distance from nature is only a mental myopia and not the truth. Too many have a wilful amnesia about caring for nature, a disregard for protecting the context of every breath they take.
The Christian narrative is a call for creation’s care, not merely for the selfish benefits we reap but for what it is—God’s handiwork (Ps 19:1-4; Deut 10:14). All the more, it is God’s instrument of revelation. It reveals knowledge about God to humanity. A neglect of this powerful instrument can be detrimental to our theology and practise. How can we then not care for what God dearly cares about (Job 38–39)?
As a Christian, it is always good to look back both in reverence to the Creator and in repentance for what a mess we’ve made of his creation. According to the creation narrative, the very first commandment of God to Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply, replenish and subdue the earth. The Lord entrusted his “good” work to the newly wedded couple (Gen 1:28). In fact, we see this delegation of authority and responsibility to Adam even before Eve was made. In Genesis 2:19–20, Adam is found naming animals—a sign of authority and ownership.
Creation care was delegated as a fundamental responsibility of the first couple. Thus, our relationship with our Creator weaves an implicit relationship with God’s creation. It is innate to our birth and existence. One cannot ignore such a heavenly bestowed relationship. An active fellowship with God translates into a vibrant fellowship with God’s creation. This is God’s fabric—Himself with his creation—a masterpiece beautifully woven. However, in this masterpiece, we often tend to think of ourselves as the crown of creation and hence fall prey to unduly lord over it. Although this idea has positional merit given the image of God in which we are made, such a self-attestation can also become overly ambitious in a sin-tainted world. The “crown of creation” must be rightfully attributed to the last Adam in whom we now live, who indeed is, and exemplifies, God’s image in humankind.
In our care of creation, we may adopt the functional analogy of a waist belt over a fabric garment. A waist belt exercises its authority and responsibility by holding the garment in its proper shape and order. It is actively involved in its role and responsibility. Loosening it may confuse Creator with the creation, and tightening it may choke God out of the creation. One may lead to neglect, while the other may lead to abuse. A right balance holds it in shape.
A faithful Christian will not only look back but will also look forward—in hope, by faith, with love. Somehow, the church has evolved a myopic view of nature in that it is willing to envision itself on the other side of the eternal shore, witnessing God’s glory in person, but failing to see the rest of the creation redeemed in him.
In all its vivid imagery and narration, biblical apocalyptic literature weaves creation into eternity—the beautiful garden city with streams of water and fruit-bearing trees (Rev 22:1-2). Revelation 5:13 paints a picture of universal adoration of the Creator King where every creature in heaven and on earth sings out an anthem to its maker and sustainer. As if this weren’t enough, the Lord has often been described as a lamb—a vivid picture of the redemption wrought in the language of creation (Rev 5:6, 8, 12; 6:1; 7:17; 14:1; 19:7; 22:1). In his prophetic vision of God’s millennial reign, Isaiah witnesses the wolf and the lamb eating together, a sign of peace (Isa 65:25). God’s language and vision depict his creation living in harmony again.
The eschatological view is not about “I-me-myself” but the whole of creation rejoicing together with the Creator. Such a glorious celebratory view of creation helps us correct our vision to witness and work toward God’s creation from the biblical perspective.
Looking at the Present
A Christian’s current view merges the biblical past and the eschatological future into the present. Between naming the animals in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:20) and being named in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 21:27) in the garden city, the creation is groaning for redemption (Rom 8:22). What then should be our rightful response?
A repentant heart is a good starting point. We often attempt to dethrone God in reigning over his creation. God owns his creation; we are care-givers on God’s behalf—a delegated ownership. The call to care for creation is upon every person; more so, it is on every Christian to partner with God in this redemptive mission. Romans 8 doesn’t merely stop at the birth pangs of creation awaiting redemption. It reminds us that every believer has the first fruits of the Spirit (Rom 8:23) and the help rendered by the Spirit in our infirmities to make intercession. A hermeneutical rendering of the text through the lens of creation implores every believer to seek the Spirit’s help in this calling towards creation care through prayer and partnership. Our pursuit then of care for creation is not a man-centric effort but a God-enabled mission for his glory and our good.
While we presently go through metamorphosis every day and look forward to his millennial reign, we have a mandate for his mission on earth. How then can we remain inactive or indifferent to God’s work in creation? Small beginnings go a long way; prayer and partnership with God in caring for the Earth matter. Every nascent small step counts—for us, for the generations to come, and for God. Be the change the creation needs!