And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20
In our last meditation we considered what it meant to bear the image of God as we rule over creation. I want to take that idea a step further. From the creation story God sets up the tension in which we live as creatures within his creation who bear his image. Here is the tension; we are at the same time very much part of the created world while also being declared the crown of creation. It is extremely important that we understand and maintain this tension, for it is in the midst of it that we serve as stewards in the kingdom of the triune God of grace.
On the one hand, from a molecular, biological standpoint, we are no different from any other part of creation. We are made up of the same atoms and molecules, and we depend on the same air to breathe and food and water to sustain us. Scientists working on the Genome Project had determined that up to 95% of our DNA structure is identical to that of apes and chimpanzees. When we die, our bodies return to the earth like every other creature. God chose to create us out of the same dust as he did the beasts of the earth (Genesis 2:19). Most importantly, this means we rely on the same planet, the same resources to sustain us as do all other creatures on earth. We are united with all creation in depending on this planet and its abundant resources for our very lives and sustenance.
On the other hand, we alone were created in the image of God. While God used the same dirt to form man and beast, is only the human into which he “breathes life.” And it is only through humanity that he chooses to co-labor in this world. Paul reminds us in second Corinthians that as Christ’s ambassadors, God is working his purposes through us. Throughout the history of Scripture God’s promises are carried out not by unilateral fiat, but through an obedient people. God does not co- labor with the beasts of the field in order to bring about his good purposes and intentions for creation. It is only to us, as a crown of creation, that such a privilege and responsibility falls.
When we lose this tension we will be tempted to worship the creation on the one hand, or destroy it on the other. If there is no distinction we will be tempted (as many are) to treat it as sacred. If we overemphasize the distinction and forget our solidarity with the creation, we will treat it as a commodity and destroy it in the pursuit of meeting our own desires and seeking our own happiness. Either way, a loss of this tension brings confusion and chaos.
When we hold these two together we can be stewards of this wonderful creation. We can acknowledge our molecular oneness with all creation and be committed to its care and nurture. As the crown of creation we can be God’s instruments in this world ruling it and caring for it as his hands and feet. God can truly bring about his good purposes for this world through us if we are willing to be humble and passionate co-laborers with God in the care of creation.
When you think of your relationship to the created world around you, is your viewpoint in balance?
Imagine you are walking on a pristine trail through the forest and you come across a piece of litter in the middle of the path. Would your response be to say, “well, if God is so concerned about his creation, he’ll send an angel down to pick this up”? Not likely. If God does his work through us, it is important for us to ask about the role he wants us to play as stewards of creation. If caring for creation is our responsibility, we need to have a clear understanding of what that means for us. I would encourage you to start right where you are. Go out and walk around the perimeter of your property. It doesn’t matter if you’re in an apartment or on a ranch, whether it takes two minutes or two hours. Walk around its entire perimeter. As you do, commit the property back to God and claim your responsibility for caring for it. Stop periodically, look at what God has given you to steward for him, and say, “I’m responsible for this.” Then make a commitment to do all you can to be a faithful caretaker of that property. When our hearts and attitudes are right with the things that are close to home, it is easier for God to work through us to impact our neighborhood, our community, our city, our state, our nation, and the world. Make a commitment today to be faithful in stewarding what God has given you. Then see if your heart is not open to other ways that God may want to carry out his work of creation care through you.
Lord God, heavenly Father, I give you thanks for this beautiful world you’ve created. I thank you that I am part of it, and ask you not to let me forget the tie that I have with the animals, plants and all of creation. I also thank you that you created me for the high and holy calling of caring for this creation because I bear your image and work in your name. Help me to remember that this is a position of both honor and responsibility. I know you love this creation, and you love me. Help me reflect that love as I live in this world as your representative. Give me a heart and spirit that is so malleable in your hands that your will for creation can be carried out through me. I pray that I might be an instrument of your peace. Thank you Lord for this beautiful creation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.