When I was growing up, environmentalists were the enemy. They loved the earth and hated God. At least, that’s what I was told. It wasn’t totally untrue, because somehow there had come to be a great divide between those who loved God and those who loved the earth. I’m glad it’s becoming less true all the time.
But one day, it occurred to me: God made the earth and thought pretty highly of it. So, those who take care of it are acting like his friends, even if they aren’t friendly toward him. And those who treat it badly, intentionally or not, aren’t acting like his friends, even if they are friendly toward him.
That was the tipping point. From there, I became a conservationist. (I’m not a big fan of the word “environment,” because an environment is something around me that doesn’t include me. I much prefer the word “creation,” since I am a creature myself, created by God just like all of the people and things around me. And as a co-creature, I have a stake in conserving the creation I’m a part of.) So, here is a non-exhaustive list of reasons why I am a conservationist.
1. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it; the world and all who live in it.” That’s how Psalm 24 starts. It’s a bold claim. Not only does God say the world belongs to him, but all of us humans do too. And as I mentioned above, being friendly toward God’s creation is being friendly toward God. And frankly the opposite is also true.
2. I live here. I like to keep my house clean. The walls are painted. The floors are swept. The garbage is taken out. The clothes are picked up (mostly). Art hangs on the walls. I keep it at a pleasant temperature. In other words, because I live in my house, I ensure that it is livable. I don’t do things that devalue it and I don’t do things that trash it. It’s my home. And so, too, is this planet. So, I treat the planet — all of it — as my home.
3. You live here. There’s a lot of us who live on this planet, and I bear a responsibility to all of you. Some of you are even my friends. And even if you’re hostile toward me, I have a responsibility toward you. Jesus tells me to love my enemies after all. So, I respect this world as your home just as much as mine.
4. It’s beautiful and I want it to stay that way. I live in a lovely place. Bend, Oregon, is exquisite with soaring mountains and plunging rivers, tall pines and rugged junipers. I like it that way and want to keep it that way. Like so many, my soul flies on the beauty of creation. And my soul dies with nature’s devastation.
5. I try not to make problems for other people. Don’t you hate it when someone makes a mess and expects you to clean it up for them? Or when the last person who used the car leaves it with an empty tank? Or when you put money in a vending machine and it takes your money but doesn’t give you what you paid for because someone broke it? When we treat the creation badly, we’re doing exactly those kinds of things. It’s just not good form. It’s impolite. And even worse, we’re not just doing it to people we don’t care about, we’re doing it to our kids and their kids and their kids and so on. I’d really like to leave things better off for my kids and your kids, not worse.
6. Habitable planets are hard to come by. As some have said, there is no Plan B when it comes to planets for us to live on. I know there are others who have said that God doesn’t plan on keeping this planet around for long, intending to burn it up in the future. But that’s not how I read 2 Peter 3 and it disregards Revelation 21, where heaven comes down to earth and the dwelling of God is with us here. So, not only are we not within striking distance of another habitable planet, the Scriptures seem to point to God not intending to scrap this one. So, let’s not blow our one and only earth.
7. If I don’t like it when people break my stuff, I’m pretty sure God doesn’t either. Years ago, I had my youth pastor get the kids to build structures out of Legos. They spent half an hour on their projects and then presented them to each other. And then my youth pastor destroyed them. The kids were furious! Absolutely livid! Then Chad said, “You spent half an hour on your creations and God has spent all history on his creation. If that’s how you feel about me breaking apart your Legos, guess how he feels about us breaking his creation?” They got the point. And what’s even worse is God has put his creation under our care. It’s one thing when a stranger breaks your stuff and it’s another thing when someone you’ve entrusted your stuff to treats it with disregard and breaks it. It’s almost as if they’re treating you that way, isn’t it?
There are plenty more reasons to be a conservationist. Feel free to add them in the comments. But I figure seven is a pretty good number to rest on.