by Maurice Hamel
"Do not be afraid. ... I hold the keys" - Revelation 1:17-18
THE DAMAGE WE HAVE DONE
The environmental movement has been warning us about the decay, deterioration and extinctions happening in the world around us. Their goal is to stop mankind from further damaging the planet which we are all dependent upon. Their premise is that our actions are the source of the problem. We have caused these problems, and so we have to fix them. They see decisive action as being required to stop the destruction of the Garden.
Christianity has a similar message. Christians recognize the world is filled with corruption, misery and death. If this world had been created through the random chance of evolution, it would be discouraging enough to think that it is now being destroyed by the carelessness of one species. But it is even worse to picture the decay that we are seeing if you recognize that the world was created in all its fullness from the beginning. Because once you understand this is true, and you see the extent of the deterioration in the world that we are left with today, you start to comprehend the magnitude of the harm mankind has caused. From this perspective you can see the futility of the idea that we will fix the damage done to what was put in our care. You also understand the fact that much of the damage that we have caused has gone beyond nature's ability to restore itself.
Consider the harm that we have done, our inability to repair that damage and the reality that we will never change our wasteful behavior on our own. We really do have reason to despair about the condition of the world. Think about the fact that the whole world was originally like one big lush South Sea island. It had all the food you could want, just reach out and take. It had a perfect climate year-round. No diseases, no predators and to top it off people did not grow old! Now compare that to what you live with today. Boy did we mess up! How are we going to explain to God the way we have made a mess of the perfect creation that he put in our care.
A CAUSE FOR HOPE
For most people, if you question science's hope of finding another miracle technology, and the spiritualist's hope that the resilient guiding force of evolution will make it all work out, then they really have no other hope to turn to. That is why understanding creationism inevitably points us toward the Savior that God has provided to redeem us and to restore his defiled creation. Without a knowledge of the Savior, a world view which has a Creator that we must answer to would be more than we could bear. This is why those of us who speak of the "created" world also speak about the Creator and the Savior. Because without that part of the story there is only guilt and despair.
Let's say that you have cancer, but don't want to get involved with doctors or hospitals because you don't trust them to have any of the answers. Instead you have decided to exercise and start a strict macrobiotic diet. You eat nothing but whole grains, organic fruits and vegetables, herbal teas and vitamins. The advancing of the illness slows, but it is still advancing. You have tried everything that you could do on your own to take care of yourself, but it seems that it is too late for help. How would you respond to being told that there was a proven cure for cancer when you knew that you were about to die from it? Would you argue that it was not true and refuse the cure?
Now what would you do if you were offered a cure for all the suffering in the world? You already have been. Are you still arguing about it?
Picture what we would do for the person who found the cure for cancer. They would become a celebrated personality. They would be given prestige, wealth and influence. What have you done for the one who has offered to free you, and all of nature, from suffering under the curse?
In his revelation to the Apostle John, years after the resurrection, Jesus said:
"Do not be afraid. ... I was dead and behold I am alive for ever and ever! I hold the keys of death". (Revelation 1:17-8)
Don't be afraid of death and the forces at work in the fallen-ness of the world. Jesus assures us he has already overcome the greatest enemies of his people.
"He who believes in me will live, even though he dies". (John 11:25)
You have probably heard that quoted before. No doubt most people have not given such nebulous spiritual talk a second thought. But this time spend a moment to hear it again, as though it was the first time. God has provided the cure for the curse which is upon creation. Our physical death is no longer permanent. More than that, one day physical death will cease to be altogether. Then all things will be made new and the curse upon the creation will be taken away. But for now there is a cure, the injection of God's Spirit into our mortal bodies which are already spiritually dead.
We had been sentenced to death for our spiritual mutiny, but instead God sent his Son to pay the penalty that we owed. He cares so much about the world he created that he chose to take on a physical body so he could face the consequences of our sentence in our place. We have not "earned" acceptance from God. We have been pardoned. Jesus used the image of being in debt to describe our situation. (Luke 7:41-50) Whoever has realized that they cannot possibly pay off their debt themselves, and has turned to God as their only hope, is considered to have had their debt paid. This is what the Bible calls our "second birth", being born of the Spirit. It is the vaccine against the second death that all face on the last day.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness". (1 John 1:9)
We are not perfect. No one is. Our world, our loved ones and our neighbors all have paid a price for our poor judgment, our indiscretion and our selfishness. The earth and its inhabitants have been harmed by our actions.
God is able to make us clean. "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy [set apart], cleansing her by the washing with water through the word." (Ephesians 5:25-27)
God is calling to us, even though we are dirty and dressed in rags. We are the beggars in the parable who were invited to the wedding banquet, (Matthew 22), made clean and given a spotless robes to wear. We are stained by our corrupted desires, lusts and greed, our wastefulness and ungratefulness, our lack of compassion and justice. We have defiled ourselves. But like in a water purification system, the pollutants are removed and water is made pure again as though it had never been fouled. The contaminants are taken from us. We become regenerated. This was the concept that Paul was building upon when he described the Church being "washed" by the word.
GOD IS NOT WORRIED
But what use is all this metaphysical stuff in the midst of our planet dying? Why doesn't God heal the ozone hole, or stop the East African famine and the cutting of the rain forests? Why doesn't he send us political leaders who will stop our wasteful societies from polluting so much? If this is God's creation, why doesn't he do something about this suffering? We're on a sinking ship and he seems to be asleep!
When such frustrations confront you, remember how Jesus dealt with such a physical crisis. The scene was a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee. In an oar-driven fishing boat a dozen or so people were in a panic. Even those who were seasoned fisherman on this sea feared they would soon perish. But Jesus still slept in the stern of the boat. When the men awoke their Bible-scholar to see how he could be so unconcerned, the Son of God"got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm." (Mark 4:39)
God is not in a panic over the environmental crisis. This same man walked on the water, healed the sick while he was still miles away and even brought life back to the dead by simply speaking a command to them. He filled Peter's net with fish after the professional fisherman had worked all night with no success. He took five loaves of bread and fed 5000 people, and then had more than five loaves worth of scraps left over.
This is someone to put our hope in. We do not depend on a God who is unable to intervene in his creation. He was present with Adam and Eve in Eden, with the Israelites in the desert and with the disciples after Pentecost. God is no less a participant in our activities today.
AWARENESS OF THE SAVIOR
A candid discussion about the Creator inevitably ends up in an awareness of the Savior. There is a difference between a view of the world that has no external Creator and a view of the world that has a Creator-Savior. The latter offers hope to those who have realized that the deterioration has gone beyond our ability to repair it. It requires an acknowledgement that our own best efforts cannot reverse that prognosis. The hope which the Bible offers is not that we can fix this broken world, but that it is possible for us to be forgiven for having rebelled against the Creator and defaced the creation. The "bad news" about our failure and the sad condition of the world is used to point out that people need the "Good News".
The conflict between these ideas is that on one side we have environmentalists saying we must do something to save the planet. They feel we must change man's behavior so he will stop hurting the planet. On the other side we have Christianity, which is also based on the idea that we are the source of the problem. The Bible says that if we are left to our own devices all is lost. We are lost. Yet in Christianity there is great hope. God offers life to those who are perishing, to those who have realized that in themselves there is no hope.
© Maurice Hamel 19DE011101 www.healingtheland.org
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