As I walked this morning in our beautiful and long awaited springtime, I was filled admiration for the Creator’s glorious handiwork. The dogwoods, azaleas, tulips and the fresh green of the newly unfurled leaves filled me with a sense of joy and awe.
No wonder we learn in Genesis that when God looked at his creation, he found it very good. Well pleased with his creation, God then blessed humankind with the responsibility to care for this lovely earth, our island home -- to act in his image and with the love that he has for creation. Thus, to my mind, caring for the environment is a deeply spiritual act.
Paul writes in Romans, “Ever since the creation of the world, [God’s] eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” Creation is a window into understanding God, and caring for nature strengthens our spiritual connection with God. If we turn our back on the earth and fail to care for it and protect it, we fail to follow Christ’s first and greatest commandment, to love God with all our heart and mind and soul.
Christ’s second great commandment also calls us to environmental consciousness. We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. As we care for the earth because it is God’s creation, so must we care for each other, because we are all made in the image of God. Christ makes clear, through the parable of the Good Samaritan, that our neighbors are not just our family, our church or our community. Instead, all of the world’s peoples are our neighbors. In the last two weeks, both the UN and the White House released reports demonstrating that climate change has already caused “impacts on natural and human systems on all the continents and across the oceans” and that “climate change has moved from a distant threat to a present day danger.” Environmental degradation harms all of us and our children, but this harm falls, and will fall, disproportionately on the poor and disenfranchised.
Loving our neighbors as ourselves requires that we focus on the environmental impact of our decisions every day, stop over-consumption, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and take steps, both personal and corporate, so that pollution of our air, water and earth is eliminated. Christ tells us, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” We must live each day with a deep and spiritual awareness of the mantle of stewardship God has placed on our shoulders.
Judy Whalley is the coordinator of the Green Team at Grace Episcopal Church, Silver Spring.