Today is the annual Earth Day, and the theme that has been chosen for today is: Restore our Planet.
We’ve been looking at this for a while, but during the pandemic we saw a lot about the healing that our planet experienced when lockdowns started happening around the world. However, CO2 emissions are now back at above pre-pandemic levels. ‘Restore our planet’ is a pertinent thought for right now, and also a very Biblical one.
In Genesis 3 we read of the crisis caused when sin entered the world. We see how it broke the relationship between God and humanity, and between humans and other humans. However we often miss or ignore two other relationships that we see become broken in genesis 3. The relationship between humans and the natural environment, and the relationship between God and his creation.
We often think of the environmental crisis as something separate from faith and spiritual matters – but this is changing – even amongst secular thinktanks, organisations and society as a whole. Professor Sir Ghillean Prance, former director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew said:
“Science alone will not be able to resolve the situation because it is a moral, spiritual and ethical one requiring major changes in our behaviour.”
This is a major opportunity for us as the church – rather than disregarding those people that are searching spiritually and finding glimpses in nature, lets point towards the Creator, and join them in seeing His hand at work in creation – his fingerprints telling us a bit about Him and his love for us and all of creation…
I am currently reading through the Psalms and highlighting verses that refer to nature – its reminded me how creation has been for a long time a major inspiration for people in worshipping God!
God cares about the land (it’s more than just a minor theme in the Bible) – in the Old Testament it is mentioned 2000 times, and in the New 250 times.
The environmental crisis is much more than just about how big corporations are using land… it is about that in part, and we should look at farming and environmental policies – as well as our own individual practices – remembering that the land belongs to God and we are answerable to Him for how we use it.
But it is deeper than that – if as this year’s earth day theme states – we want to “restore our planet” we need to not only heal our relationship with the planet, but also our relationship with God – because we are all interlinked – that’s how God made it to be from the start of Genesis. We read in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14:
13 At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. 14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins AND RESTORE THEIR LAND.
For the planet to truly be restored we need to humble ourselves, pray and bring to him the ways where we are failing Him and ask for his forgiveness and for a restored relationship.
However, I would just like to highlight two warnings related to this –
Firstly, bumper crops don’t necessarily point to the spiritual purity of the people that live in that part of the world – that would be a form of an eco-prosperity gospel. There are lots of other reasons this could happen – (including short sighted agricultural policies that exploit the land and cause long-term damage!).
In a book called Planet Wise by a man ironically called Dave Bookless he explains:
“The entry of sin into the world has led to a randomness in how nature operates. It is the whole of creation, not just sinful people, that has been ‘subjected to frustration’ and is ‘groaning as in the pains of childbirth’ (Romans 8:18-25) because of human sin.”
We are all in this together around the world – our collective greed and selfishness is causing havoc around the world, not necessarily in the geographic location we currently find ourselves in.
Secondly, the opposite warning is to not fall into the trap of thinking that faith and land have no connection. Dave Bookless continues:
“If we find it hard to imagine how repenting and returning to God can benefit the natural environment, it’s because we’ve forgotten how everything is connected in God’s world. God longs to bring healing to the land, and as people repent and return to him, both in personal morality and in their stewardship of the earth, God’s healing grace is released into healing the land itself.”
So, this earth day, as we look at restoring our planet – let’s begin in repentance as we seek to restore our relationship with our Creator God. Something which is only possible because of Jesus – who died so that all our broken relationships could be restored.
If it’s helpful you might like to end this time by saying this prayer of repentance:
For rubbish discarded and not recycled
For the one-use items bought when reusables were available
Lord have mercy
Help us to develop the technology and will-power to recycle.
For houses full of stuff, as we buy more
For clothes left unworn whilst the latest fashions are bought
Lord have mercy
Help us to find contentment in what we have.
For cars driven when walking was possible
For public transport neglected for the comfort of our own vehicle
For flights taken for speed and our convenience
Lord have mercy
Change our habits and save us from the consequences of our sin.
For food left uneaten until thrown away
For excess eating that fuels our greed
For cheaper food demanded from afar
Lord have mercy,
Teach us simplicity and help us to ensure every part of the world has enough food.
For energy and water wasted
For pollution justified
For acting as though the planet was ours to do what we wanted with
Lord have mercy
Help us to look after your precious and wonderful gift of creation and to care for it in your name and to your glory.