It is unfortunate that many of us (and I include myself, through most of my life) think of environmental concern and sustainability as mostly a political issue, and worse, one that falls on the “wrong” side of the political fence. Combine this with a version of the Christian worldview that looks forward to escaping the earth rather than witnessing its redemption, and you have a serious blind spot.
It’s time that we took a look at things from a different perspective. So I offer 7 reasons Christians can’t afford to ignore sustainable living.
1. We are humans. Part of what that now means, unfortunately, is that we are fallen. We have the potential to do great damage, even though we might not be aware that we’re doing it. And we are ambitious, and sometimes arrogantly overstep our bounds. The mere fact that we are human ought to cause us to stop and think how we might be harming God’s creation.
2. We are made in the image of God. And just as God is sustainer, he has empowered us to be sustainers in our own limited way. He has given us the responsibility of managing the earth’s resources, not only to meet our immediate needs but the needs of the future as well.
3. We live in a place. None of us is responsible for the whole earth; but we are at least responsible for the place where we live, work, play, eat, and sleep at the time we are there. We at least have a vested interest in the health and sustainability of our local community. None of us wants to see our own air or water polluted, our own soil lose its fertility, or our own beautiful landscapes marred.
4. We are stewards. The earth is the Lord’s and he has entrusted its care to us. God has built a remarkable amount of sustainability into the earth. For example, he has given us plants that bear within them the seeds for the next generation of plants. We need to honor God by preserving and protecting the renewability systems he created.
5. We are to exercise self-control. We need to use the earth’s resources conservatively so that our harvesting of resources does not exceed the earth’s capacity to renew them. Exhibit A: the rising cost of gasoline. When we use resources without regard for other people or generations, we unwittingly become exploiters of others.
6. We are meant to be more than consumers. It is easy to fall into a pattern of accelerating consumption–buying and wasting more and more each year. We can buy food, clothing, furniture, and many other things, with little regard for or appreciation of the natural resources that were sacrificed so that we could have that item we so easily disregard. That’s why it’s healthy, in whatever way you can, to balance your consumption with production. Grow some of your own food, make some of your own stuff, repair rather than replace.
7. We are to care for future generations. Are we leaving our children and grandchildren more natural resources or less? Soil that is more fertile or less? A place that is more sustainable or less? An outstanding way to care for your children and grandchildren is to so steward your life and place that they will have the knowledge, ability, and example to help preserve the sustainability God built into the earth.
God’s plan is to redeem the earth, just as he is actively redeeming human lives. It is his creation, just as we are. And we share in its oversight. Christians must rise and respond to this aspect of our calling. It’s an area in which we must allow the Holy Spirit to transform our lives.
Believe me, I offer a lot of grace in these matters, because I need a lot of grace myself. But it simply won’t do to keep quiet and to go on living as we have been.