One of the 5 marks of mission we looked at before (here) is the safeguarding of creation. It’s a topic which is key to thinking about mission in the future as we think about how the missions movement will respond to the climate emergency.
These notes from a staff meeting were largely created by lifting things from other websites! I’ve tried to note the sources.
As the Lausanne gathering in Cape Town during 2010 noted:
If Jesus is Lord of all the earth, we cannot separate our relationship to Christ from how we act in relation to the earth. For to proclaim the gospel that says ‘Jesus is Lord’ is to proclaim the gospel that includes the earth, since Christ’s Lordship is over all creation. Creation care is thus a gospel issue within the Lordship of Christ. The Cape Town Commitment I-7-A
Why does it matter? ( from OMF’s website)
“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” Psalm 24:1
Extreme weather events are becoming more common. Severe storms, floods and droughts are often on the news and we are seeing widespread degradation of the oceans, rivers, soils, forests, and atmosphere. (All over Latin America we’ve seen recent storms and hurricanes, the continued burning of Brazilian Amazon jungle, and the ongoing impact of mining etc)
Lots of people are impacted: While fires in California, bushfires in Australia and melting ice in the Arctic get pictures on our news, but people everywhere have been affected. They have resulted in food and water shortages, destruction of homes and means of livelihood, involuntary migration, disease, and death.
Growing population means many people have no choice but to live in marginal lands that are particularly vulnerable to these impacts, and to natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
There is a large-scale loss of biodiversity in land and marine eco-systems, rising levels of CO2. Furthermore, the earth’s resources are being consumed at unsustainable levels. Something will need to change.
A Biblical response (A Rocha)
A response that takes Scripture seriously will take note of these four things.
- God made the world and he loves it. God is the creator of the world and he thinks it is ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). God is involved with his creation, sustaining it and caring for it (Psalm 65:9–13; Matthew 10:29; Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:16–17). For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. If God loves the world, then we want to love what he loves and take care of it for his sake.
- God created us to look after it We are created beings, part of the whole community of creation, joining together to praise God (Psalm 148). But we have also been given a special task – to look after the rest of what God has made (Genesis 1: 26–28; Gen. 2:15). This is not an optional extra for a few keen environmentalists, but a fundamental part of what it means to be human.
- It has gone wrong because of us. It is a sad truth that the many problems our world and its inhabitants face are caused by human activity. Acts of human sin have ecological consequences (Hosea 4: 1–3; Amos 8: 1–8).We bear the guilt for the state our world is in (Isaiah 24: 4–6) and so we have a responsibility to act.
- God has a purpose for it. God’s plans for salvation involve all he has made (Colossians 1: 19–20). God has promised that, when Jesus returns, this world will be radically renewed: all that is evil will be destroyed; all that is good will shine out (2 Peter 3: 10; Revelation 21 – 22:6).
So What? Let’s play our part
Mission organisations haven’t always been quick to grapple with these issues. They raise difficult questions for us. Often mission involves a significant carbon footprint with flights and other significant environmental costs. For example, we might want to encourage short term mission trips but if each return flight produces 3 tonnes of CO2. How do we decide which is more important, the 2 week mission trip or the reduction to emissions?
There is also a significant link with poverty. Often it is the poorest who are most impacted by climate change; whether that is drought reducing crop yields, rising sea levels flooding homes, or severe weather trashing homes and livelihoods.
Any mission agency which doesn’t think about the impact of what it is doing from the perspective of creation care is failing in its responsibility to understand and proclaim the gospel.
Some questions to ponder
- How can your church or organisation demonstrate better care of the created world?
- How might creation care & stewardship change mission in the years ahead? Is there a tension between saving people or saving trees?
- Individually, what choices and habits do we have that support creation or damage it? Eat less meat? Ethically sourced clothes? Reuse rather than replace?
If you would like a longer read around the subject for it’s importance to UK Church this report by the Baptist Union / Methodist Church / United Reformed Church might be of interest. https://www.baptist.org.uk/Publisher/File.aspx?ID=111218&view=download
https://www.ecosia.org/?c=en the search engine that plants trees
Tearfund has several resources on their website, especially the https://learn.tearfund.org/ one which is a goldmine of useful things.
Climate Stewards help you think about your carbon footprint and how you can offset this https://www.climatestewards.org/
The UN has 17 sustainable development goals you can find details here https://sdgs.un.org/goals
Picture: rubbish in the river water, Nauta, Perú