I confess that on the issue of ‘environmentalism’ I tend to flip-flop. As a resident of the Inner West of Sydney, I’m very often in conversations (both with Christians and non-Christians) that centre around how important it is to shop ethically, make sure you know where your produce comes from, eat less meat, reduce your carbon foot-print…and on and on it goes. As a Christian, the concept of ‘responsible stewardship’ is thrown around to add weight to the argument. It feels great to care passionately about the environment and be a bit ‘trendy’ to boot.
And then there are times when, quite honestly, I think “What difference does this make?” This world will pass away eventually, and I’m only ONE person in millions, and I like the convenience of mass-produced, right-there-on-the-shelf, in the giant-supermarket-that-has everything-I-need-in-one-shop food, and there are countless more important things to be caring about!
That’s why reading the first chapter of Richard Baukham’s book, Bible and Ecology, hit me square between the eyes: ecology is more than just an issue to care about; it’s a framework for understanding how we operate in the world that God himself has made! And this first chapter helped me to see that the world is not the only thing He has made– we, as humans, are a part of the created world, not demi-gods free to do whatever we like with it. I felt confronted with my own underlying assumptions that the idea of ‘stewardship’ meant that in some sense we are more important than the other creatures because we are ‘made in the image of God.’ I had not considered that he had lovingly crafted this earth into being and cared for all the creatures and life on it, or that
“…we belong to the earth more than it belongs to us, that we are more dependent on it than it is on us, that we are of the earth, not on the earth.”
It was actually a little bit fun to realise afresh that we do in fact need the creation in order to survive. This is a humbling and simultaneously exhilarating thought.
Humbling, because if we see the creation and all its wondrous complexity as belonging to someone else, then we know that we are not in control of it or causing any of it to even exist. We can be less anxious about trying to ‘save’ the world through our efforts, and revel in our creatureliness, enjoying the good things that God has put here for his creatures to interact with. But exhilarating, because as creatures made in God’s image and given a special task to do, we don’t want to be slacking off on the job. And therein lies the beauty – we get to be creative (haha) in humbly thinking of ways to tend God’s creation, using the eyes of our Creator as we look at His world, and ask “How would He have me look after the other creatures and life he has made?” Baukham’s argument has challenged me not only to stop flip-flopping, but to alter my heart and eyes in growing a heart for the whole world that God has put me in, and not just care about the convenience of my immediate life.
About our contributor: My name is Alison Glover, having recently married Richard Glover :) I studied a BA at Sydney University, where I met my husband, but more importantly, where I met Jesus on a more personal and confronting level than I ever had before. Though growing up in a genuinely Christian home, I had never been exposed to the Jesus that the Christian group taught so fervently about at great depth. I felt so many things about life make so much more sense, and I began to care more about the student ministry and their work that was happening on campus more than my studies! After completing my BA, I completed a two-year ministry training course with the same group, and this year am working for a school whilst I prayerfully consider where Jesus would have me be next.
I care passionately about my family (who are wonderful), literature (which I studied), cheese (which is delicious) and church (as vital to my faith).