One of the primary duties for Christians is to recognize the dignity of all of God’s creatures and to exercise our dominion over them in ways that are humane, responsible, and God-honoring. It is literally the first set of instructions given to humanity (Gen. 1:28). Yet when think of our roles as stewards of creation, we often focus exclusively on our collective responsibilities at the macro level rather than on what we can do at the micro level of individual effort. In our focus on fixing global problems we tend to forgot our responsibility to “tend the garden” in our personal interactions with nature.
Such small-scale cultivation of nature is not as exciting as proposing legislation for an environmental agenda or as attention-getting as raising money to save an entire species. But the very simplicity of the actions can help us clearly see the beauty in exercising dominion – a term that has developed ugly connotations – and lead us to a more worshipful posture toward our Creator.
An wonderful example is an interaction between scuba instructor and underwater videographer Keller Laros and a bottlenose dolphin in need of the type of help only a human can provide. After noticing a fishing hook and line stuck in the dolphin’s fin, Laros, an experienced rescuer of dolphins, works to free the animal.
In our fallen world the tasks of “tending the garden” often results in the unintentional destruction of creatures we’re meant to protect. By using our God-given knowledge and abilities, though, we can often fix some of the mess we have made and to leave nature in a better state than it would be if left unattended. Sometimes this requires collective effort on a global scale. But sometimes it just takes a single human willing to do their part to serve God’s other creatures.
A fair and honest debate about religious responses to environmental issues should always distinguish theological principles from prudential judgments.nt.