"For God so loved the world," Jesus explained, that He sent His only-begotten Son for its redemption and renewal (Jn. 3.16). Our human tendency is to think of salvation only in terms of God's dealing with people. But God's plan is larger than that.
Creation groans under the effects of sin. Land that is not developed for human use is often scarred and wasted. Seas, rivers, and streams are plundered and polluted. Species teeter on the brink of extinction. And the beauty that characterizes creation in its near-pristine form goes unnoticed and unappreciated by most people.
The groaning creation, Paul wrote, awaits the revealing of the sons and daughters of God (Rom. 8.19)? But for what? That they may continue the mindless exploitation and abuse of the creation for their own purposes and projects? Certainly not. The creation hopes to be "set free from its bondage to decay" and to "obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (v. 20). The redemption we enjoy through Jesus Christ, Who is making all things new in our lives, is intended also to make all things new through us - including the creation, at least as much of it as comes into our purview and power.
My friend Nate Simons is executive director of Blue Heron Ministries (http://www.blueheronland.org/) which has as its mission to rescue failing patches of the northern Indiana countryside and restore them, in the name of the Lord, to beauty and flourishing once again. Every time I think about Nate's work I wonder why more churches and Christians don't regard this as important for expressing the love God has for His world. Do we have to count on The Nature Conservancy and other secular entities to do this work for us?
Each of us must consider how God's love for His creation should flow through us to the environment. We could begin by learning to appreciate our immediate environment - its natural history and beauty, the flora and fauna, the stresses it encounters because of the incessant human tendency to develop and expand. We could teach our children to love yard work, identify song birds, learn something about the night sky, and understand changes in the weather. We could take up poetry, painting, photography, or restoration work to celebrate the beauty of the world God loves.
We sing "This is My Father's World" but do we act as though we really believe it? The creation is declaring the glory of God, but most of us aren't listening. And by not listening, we may be contributing more to the groaning of creation than to its rejoicing in the glory we are coming to know through our faith in Jesus Christ.
Additional related texts: Psalm 19.1-4; Ps. 8; Rom. 1.18-21; Ps. 145
A conversation starter: "The Bible says that the creation around us is another way that God makes Himself known. Do we have some responsibility to try to hear Him speaking there, and to take better care of the environment?"
T. M. Moore