“Single use” was the word of the year in 2018, according to Collins Dictionary. In 2019 it was “climate strike”. Clearly the world is more and more anxious that our current lifestyle is leading the planet into crisis, and wants to make fundamental changes. Christians are also speaking up in word and action, from grassroots movements such as Eco Church to Christian voices at global environmental meetings. Are we just following the crowd? Or are there fundamental reasons why Christians should be active in caring for the environment? And, given so many needs in the world and so few workers for the harvest field, should environmental care be part of mission?
Interserve believes that creation care must be included in our response to the gospel, agreeing with the Lausanne Declaration on Creation Care (November 2012). The reasons for this are found throughout scripture. From the beginning, God declares that creation is good (Gen 1) and belongs to him (Ps 24). He sustains and nurtures it (Job 38), delights in it (Ps 104) and promises to take care of it (Gen 9). When he placed humans on earth he commanded them (us) to rule over creation as those who bear his image (Gen 1). And he balanced the command to rule with commands to “serve and to keep” (Gen 2)—the same commands given to priests in the Old Testament temple.
Not many Interserve workers are directly employed in “environmental work”, but those involved in Business as Mission affect the environment through their business, and all of us interact with creation as we eat, breathe, wash, shop and travel. When we do these things with respect for the Creator, conscious of bearing his image, we bear witness to others of the loving God we serve.
The Bible links environmental degradation with sin (Gen 3, Hos 4), but also affirms that God’s redemptive work will restore the creation to fullness and peace. In fact, Jesus’ death and resurrection reconcile not only humans but “all things on earth and in heaven” to God (Col 1). In the biblical picture of shalom we see harmony between God, people and all of creation (Isa 11, Rom 8). If we are to be active participants in God’s story of redemption, we cannot ignore the wide scope of the redemption story.
We also cannot ignore the fact that the people we serve depend on a healthy environment for their survival and wellbeing. This year, while smog in Delhi was closing schools and filling hospital emergency rooms, newspapers reported that more than 1 million Indians die each year from air pollution-related diseases. In
Indonesia the air pollution that affects the health of more than 10 million children comes largely from burning of rainforests and peatlands. Future environmental problems are likely to be far more serious. The glaciers of the Himalayas are a massive water reservoir, feeding rivers that support more than 1.6 billion people (about one in four people on earth). These glaciers are predicted to lose at least a third of their ice mass by 2100 due to climate change. This will mean floods in the short term, then severe water shortages and crop failures in the following decades.
Ultimately, the people Interserve serves cannot flourish unless the environment that supports them also flourishes. This is why the Lausanne Declaration says that, “Love for God, our neighbours and the wider creation, as well as our passion for justice, compel us to urgent and prophetic ecological responsibility”.
Christians are called to care for God’s creation and join God’s work of redeeming all creation as part of our obedience and love of the Creator. The environmental degradation we see across the Interserve world only makes it more urgent that we act.
Richard has loved the natural world since his growing up years in New Zealand. He has worked as a freshwater ecologist for 15 years, and with his wife Liza is currently serving to resource Interserve in the area of creation care. He and his family live in South Asia.