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Will There Be GREEN people in heaven?

April 22, 2008

by: Carole Hicks

It’s not something that is dwelt on to any significant degree but on this Earth Day 2008, it has come to my attention that there is an obvious lack of concern (sometimes down-right animosity) for the environment among a certain group of people — Christians. Now to give them (as a whole) the benefit of the doubt, many are actively concerned about issues of eternal importance (I hope.) One more thing on their Sunday dinner plate would be a distraction from the obvious most important task of carrying out the Great Commission.

But a few weeks ago I was confronted with an attitude based on the idea that one can’t be a Christian and GREEN at the same time. (Sort of how you can’t be a Christian and be Democrat — but that’s a whole ‘nuther essay) This mindset took me off-guard at first and then I got to thinking and realized that in my 25+ years as a Christian, I’ve heard very few sermons or lessons on our responsibility in caring for the Earth. I’ve heard a great number of sermons on stewardship of financial resources and GIVING.

An article in ONEARTH by Christian environmentalist, writer and speaker, Bill McKibben, states that in many conservative Christian circles, “Environmentalism [was] a dirty word.” (Fall 2006) That’s not to say that Christian people are really not concerned about the environment, but rather that there’s been a certain “taboo” to giving critical thought to these issues (probably because they are more commonly associated with a more liberal state of mind).

In fact, I personally know many Christians who reduce, reuse and recycle all the time. I know an equal number or more Christian families who drive all three of their SUVs to church on Sunday. There are people who do both!

Ironically, Christians and environmentalists alike are interested in the same end-goal: SAVING THE EARTH. In fact, if one looks at Jesus’ Great Commission to His church, thinking globally and acting locally began right there on that mountain near Galilee. Now of course, Jesus wasn’t referencing environmental issues. He was telling His disciples to go forth, teaching and preaching, baptizing and making other disciples. That’s the GREAT COMMISSION.

It was over in another part of the Bible that we can find the commission to care for the Earth.

In Genesis 2, the Bible says that “God took the Man and set him down in the Garden of Eden to work the ground and keep it in order.” (The Message) Earlier in Genesis 1, God tells His creation (male and female) to “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of the Earth.” (The Message) This was a lot of responsibility for mankind — but God looked things over and evidently thought it was a good plan.

As I’ve conducted some more extensive research into this issue, I’ve found that throughout the Bible (God’s Word) there are numerous circumstances that demonstrate God’s intention that the environment should be a concern for the whole earth … even those who follow after Him and His Son, Jesus.

For example, one might consider Noah an ancient environmentalist. He was following directions from God in building the big boat, and was considered quite radical in foretelling the “coming doom” and by collecting two of every specimen (male and female) to preserve life on Earth. The movie “Evan Almighty” places this biblical story in modern-day perspective in direct correlation with current issues of corporate, governmental and individual abuses of the environment.

There are other references in the Old Testament where Jewish laws mandate a Sabbath for the land every seventh year, giving the Earth time to rejuvenate in areas that are overused. Farmers carry out this practice even today. And obviously, from David, Solomon, Job and many others, there is a consistent wonder with God’s creation and His Divine revelation through nature. Surely, it’s not meant to be taken for granted.

Many read the Bible daily but because it’s just not been necessary to read it with any kind of an ecological perspective, perhaps Christians have indeed missed the importance of human responsibility of being “good” stewards of the earth. From Genesis to Revelation, there are stories of people using the Earth for good pleasure and livelihood. And as humankind has followed the directive to “replenish and reproduce,” the implications that come with more people (more garbage, more technology, more use and abuse) have become more prevalent and obvious in the past 25 years.

There are many issues that are taken up by political activists that are simply not “political issues.” They are people issues. That’s why it is important for people to lay aside their politics and think more critically about the why’s and how’s we can come together on a common cause — especially one like the environment that is essential to the existence of all human-kind (Republican, Democrat, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Black, White, or GREEN).

The term “tree-hugger” has been used derogatively in certain “Christian” circles, implying that people with environmental concerns worship the Earth rather than God. Today is Earth Day … around the world. Berea College does not have classes or labor today … they celebrate it as “Labor Day” in lieu of the September Labor Day when school is in session. As I woke up this morning, I looked out my bedroom window to see the sun rising over the hilltop and I thought, “WOW, GOD! What a great day. If I was at home in Tennessee, I would certainly take advantage of this “free day” and head straight for Reliance to sit atop Big Bend and worship You!”

In 1982 while living in Germany, I traveled to the South and was driving through the Alps in complete AWE of God’s creation. I said to my husband, “How could anyone ever be an atheist after seeing such a sight.” Then a few years ago, I was privy to what I believe is a miracle and phenomena of God’s creation. Serving on mission trip in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, after a rather sudden rainstorm that swept across the town, as I watched the storm clouds roll on by there appeared a perfect double rainbow. In this rainbow, I saw God … I saw His glory … and I KNEW that Earth nor any part of creation is by random existence. As stated, how can one keep from worshipping God in His Creation?

It is imperative that each of us take heed to the ways of our lives that are infringing upon God’s creation. To blow off this responsibility is not only appalling, it’s possibly down-right ignorant. We’re a wasteful, indulgent, extravagant people. While this too may be a whole ‘nuther essay, it is not too far-fetched to say that we worship our technology and amenities and conveniences more than we worship God too.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: If we don’t pro-actively and collectively care for this place that God has provided us to “have dominion over,” soon enough we will be able to answer the question, “Will there be GREEN people in heaven?”

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