The United Nations World Environment Day is being celebrated on 5th June. This is an international day where people are being challenged to do “something positive for the environment” (United Nations Environment Program, 2015: n.p). For some this may be seen as a day for the “tree huggers”, however, for Christians this could be a day where we celebrate God’s creation and look for ways that we can care for it.
When God created this world he declared it to be “very good” and placed people in the garden to “take care of it” (Genesis 1: 31 & 2: 15). Scripture is clear that creation is not ours; it is God’s and 1 Colossians 1:16 tells us that creation exists for Christ. As Christians we have been given the responsibility to care for or steward God’s creation. Historically a steward was someone who would look after property in the absence of the King. When the King returned the steward was accountable for how they discharged their duty. The Bible also tells us that creation is suffering and is also waiting for the return of Christ where it too will be brought from decay. Romans 8: 21 says: “All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (NLT).
There is a Biblical mandate to care for creation, but we also care for creation because of God’s justice. Currently in our world there are people suffering as a result of environmental degradation. Climate change is already having a catastrophic impact upon the poorest of the poor in our world (Southam, 2012: 3). Regular growing seasons have all but disappeared making subsistence farming extremely difficult (Southam, 2012: 12); malaria is infiltrating areas where it has never been causing sickness (Oxfam Australia, 2009: 24). Sea levels are rising and are threatening island nations. The island nation of Tuvalu is home to just over 10,000 inhabitants. These people will become homeless and nationless if sea levels rise by the predicted amount (Oxfam Australia, 2009: 37). Countries are being mined, rivers polluted, forests destroyed, and wildlife killed all in the name of progress. The earth is suffering and because of this the poorest in our world are suffering unjustly. This alone is reason enough to act.
When we stop to look at the suffering that is happening globally and the destruction of the environment it can be overwhelming, but we each can play our part. Most importantly we have the opportunity to bring the state of our world before God in prayer. As well as this I also invite you this World Environment Day to pray about a change you can make in your life to help care for the environment. Perhaps you could ride your bike to work rather than taking the car, eat less meat, turn the heater down by 1 degree, switch to a green energy provider, write a letter to your local MP asking for action on climate change, buy an item second hand instead of new, or start buying organic products. In the words of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon "Although individual decisions may seem small in the face of global threats and trends, when billions of people join forces in common purpose, we can make a tremendous difference" (UNEP, 2015: n.p).
Catherine Spiller is the Assistant Coordinator Mission and Ministry Formation at the School for Officer Training.
Oxfam Australia. (2009). Suffering the Science: Climate Change, People and Poverty.
Southam, H. (Ed). (2012). Dried up, Drowned Out. Tearfund: UK.
United Nations Environment Program. What is WED. Accessed Internet http://unep.org/wed/wed2015/about.asp (7th May 2015).