"Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" [John 6:9]
Among all the many good things going on last weekend in Boise, I (and a few others) noticed something a bit disconcerting.
The way many of the topics were covered shows how prone Christians are to being consumed by doom and gloom messages of scarcity and lack and overpopulation and an "ever smaller earth." While it’s reasonable to take a survey of the damage and an inventory of the challenges facing the Church on the subject of caring for creation (…first sit down and count the cost…), we must guard against the negative motivation campaigns that are a hallmark of the environmental movement.
This sort of thinking fosters false choices and unecessarily narrows our options for moving forward. For instance, during the session on climate change, this question was asked:
Do we spend our time, energy and money taking care of people? Or is it wiser to use our resources to rescue the planet so people will have a better place to live?
As children of God that thinking should immediately strike us as out of place. It is, in fact, in direct opposition to what we know (or should know!) about how God works.
- God makes everything from nothing [see footnote]. His abundance is not dependent on or limited by what exists on the earth yesterday, today or tomorrow. The cattle on a thousand hills are His. He can make stones cry out or turn them into bread. He both creates and tends to habitats.
- He is the author of life, and rules both the natural and supernatural. He creates living things from dead, whether that be almond branches or best friends. The life He creates does not merely sustain the status quo but is fruitful and multiplies itself abundantly.
- In our relationship with God through Christ we have access to the infinite resources of the Creator. We have the power of prayer that transforms the lives of individuals and nations. Prayer can bring buckets of rain or extended drought. Through Him we can bring water from a rock in the desert, or get money from a fish’s mouth.
- God gives the Church no reason to doubt that if He has given us a mandate, He will also give us the power and the means by which to carry it out. Likewise, we should not be surprised when our own means to solve problems – ecological or otherwise – are limited. Truth be told, He doesn’t need us around to make any of this happen. Our weakness and limitations force us to depend on His abundance and strength so that He is glorified, not us.
I couldn’t summarize this any better than this Torah teacher does here:
Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: "I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?" (Jeremiah 32:26,27)
To deny God’s ability is to deny God himself. Nothing is too hard for God. However else we may struggle in our faith, we must come to the place where we accept that his power is limitless. Once we get to that point, the door of our hearts is open to whatever he may want to do in our lives. I wonder how many of us cannot hear the great things God wants to do in us and through us, because we don’t believe in his ability. Think of how we would pray and live differently if in our heart of hearts we knew God’s power had no limits.
A hallmark of the Christian ecologist must always be an unflappable, unstoppable confidence in God’s abundance.
Let’s admit here and now that fire and brimstone sermons do little to change hearts, and neither will they green the Church or transform our world.
[Footnote: This is also a good argument for thoughtful debate over earth’s origin. A materially-limited view of God is a natural outcome of routinely seeing Him as merely an intelligent agent acting within the confines of the earth’s self-existing (and thus finite) evolutionary processes.]