The world is spinning – seemingly out of control. Divergence not diversity is the theme. Lies trump truth. Pain and hurt, shame and guilt abound. Vile comments, pictures, and behaviors sear our souls. Violence and human misery cause our hearts to despair. How can we live in these times? What can we do to share the mind of Christ in 2018? The word that floated into my mind as I pondered how to live faithfully in today’s world is HARMONY. Watch this space for ideas on how to live in harmony in 2018. And share your ideas about living in harmony in a comment.
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“The Lord God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it” (Gen. 2:15 CEB).
Perhaps the most visible – and controversial – evidence of our choice to live in disharmony is our relationship to Creation. Not only are we in disharmony with the world we live in, we are also in disharmony about how we are supposed to live in it!
It seems that a Christian’s vision of living in God’s world should be pretty uncomplicated. God created everything. God gave humans the responsibility of taking care of what God created. Therefore humans will make choices that benefit the environment in which they live.
However, since human beings prefer control rather than obedience, some of us have decided that God’s instruction to “take care of” means that we can do what we want with our planet – even if what we want will destroy that same planet. Individually we plunder and spoil and misuse our little spot in the universe as if we could re-create it whenever we want to. Or, perhaps worse, the universe’s value to us is strictly utilitarian – we make it work for us. We treat animals, birds, fish, trees, flowers as if they exist for our pleasure. Nature, it seems, can just be ignored or even eliminated if it does not create pleasure or if gets in our way. Corporately, we foul the air, the water and our lungs because profit is the goal, not care for the environment.
An example of our disharmony with creation, is the fury over climate change. Humans have created conditions that are causing the climate in our “garden” to change. The results of this climate change can be seen in the Permafrost Tunnel in Alaska. As reported during Morning Edition on NPR on January 24, 2018, this tunnel, a research facility constructed and operated by the US Army in the 1960’s, offers a unique research platform for scientists and engineers who wish to study a frozen environment over 40,000 years old. The permafrost is packed with the remains of ancient life. From prehistoric grass and trees to woolly mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses, just about every creature that lived on the tundra over the past 100,000 years is buried and preserved in the permafrost.
Now, however, for the first time in centuries, the Arctic permafrost is beginning to change — rapidly. It’s warming up. Right now the permafrost carbon is inert and trapped in the frozen soil. But what happens when the soil thaws? That’s the question scientists are trying to figure out. A few years ago, they ran a simple experiment. They brought big drills into the tunnel and cut out chunks of ice. They took the ice back to the lab and let it slowly come up to room temperature. Then they looked for signs of life. A few days later, something started growing — slowly at first, but then like gangbusters.
“This is material that stayed frozen for 25,000 years,” Dr. Thomas Douglas, a geochemist at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, says. “And given the right environmental conditions, it came back alive again vigorously.” These rejuvenated signs of life were ancient bacteria. Once they warmed up, the bacteria started converting the carbon that’s in dead plants and animals into gases that cause climate change: carbon dioxide and methane. Humans are warming the atmosphere; the earth responds the only way it can.
God’s “Great Act of Hospitality”
In a recent Renovare blog post, Chris Hall shares John Chrysostom’s teaching about “the goodness of creation.” Chrysostom says that creation reflects God’s infinite love for humanity and God’s desire to create an environment purposely designed to nurture a human being’s awareness of God’s love. The natural world is given to God’s image-bearers as a gift, filled with God’s graceful provision. This world is the ideal natural environment for humans to grow, develop and exercise the responsibilities given to them by God” (the Renovare Weekly Digest, January 16, 2018).
This concept from an old saint is echoed by Chris Webb in his new book, God-Soaked Life. He says that in creation,
“God did what God always does: took a chaotic mess, something dead and cold, and breathed his Spirit over it to bring order, sense, meaning, and an overwhelming and exuberant out- pouring of life itself.
But for God the shaping of this magnificent cosmos was not an end in itself; it had a further and very definite purpose. . . . This world was to be both a place drenched in God’s holy presence and a dwelling for human beings living in relationship with him and one another. Creation, a space opened up in which we could live and flourish, was God’s great act of hospitality.”
We are guests in the space that God “opened up” for our pleasure. Are we thankful for God’s “great act of hospitality?” Or are we the kind of guests we don’t invite back to our own homes – those who track in mud, spill drinks, put their feet on the coffee table, argue, swear, and generally damage our space and make life uncomfortable?