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July 23, 2017

 

  

7.23.17                              Pentecost 7                     - Romans 8:19-24 ESV

 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved.

GOD’S ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT
 
The Larsen C ice shelf broke off from Antarctica a couple of weeks ago.  It was a big deal because the iceberg it created was the size of the state of Delaware.  With the volume of Lake Erie, it weighed an estimated 1 trillion tons.  Fortunately, because it had already been floating on the ocean surface, it didn’t cause any rise in the sea levels on nearby continents.  Of course, some scientists jumped to the conclusion that the enormous crack in the ice shelf was caused by global warming, while others countered that iceberg “calving” as it’s called happens all the time because of the force exerted by glaciers sliding slowly down mountain slopes onto an ice shelf.  You may have seen this incredible sight in Alaska if you’ve done a cruise there. 
 
The controversy over “climate change” as they refer to it now is always a hot topic even though they don’t call it “global warming” so often anymore because it’s hard to measure how much is happening and whether it’s because of human activity (“anthropogenic”) or naturally occurring cycles in the climate caused by volcanic eruptions or even solar flares.  It’s become a political football as you know from the uproar over the Paris Climate Accord which the President said was a bad deal for America so he withdrew our country from it, although I noticed that the state of Minnesota still supports it.  Seems to me it’s the age-old conflict between ecology and economy. There’s always going to be friction between proponents of those opposing interests.   
 
Well, where do you stand on the issue?  What should Christians think about this?  First we want to know what God has to say about the matter and you might be surprised that there is some reference to it in this text from Romans.  So let’s look at GOD’S ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT (in the climate controlled comfort of our church).
 
Fundamental to our world view is the belief that God created the earth and everything in it.  “The creation” Paul refers to here is what God has made by His own amazing power in His own inscrutable ways.  Genesis 1 simply reports that God said “Let there be” and “there was.”  Everyone should be able to see the glorious majesty of God in all the wonders of creation, as Paul writes in the first chapter of this epistle, so those who choose to worship the creature rather than the Creator are without excuse.  Undoubtedly, the fact that so many have naively accepted unprovable theories of the random evolution of life from matter has resulted in a lot of confusion in regard to the environment.  What does any life matter if life is only matter?  But for those who believe that God made the earth as a home for human beings to inhabit, His ownership of this property is a mighty incentive for us to respect it and protect it, not just exploit it for selfish purposes.
 
However, God also gave man dominion over the earth, according to the creation account.  Therefore, He made people responsible for the management of its vast resources.  We have a caretaker role in the ecology of the earth.  Human beings, made in the image of God, have intrinsic value over other forms of life but that doesn’t give us the right to abuse them.   For God is still preserving His creatures.  He causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall and the seed to grow.  He clothes the fields with flowers.  The trees and streams and mountains and seas, indeed the whole animal kingdom praise Him.  Read Job and the Psalms sometimes.  He notices when one sparrow falls from the sky, Jesus indicated.  So God cares what happens to the world He created. 
 
Even after the fall into sin.  When Adam and Eve disobeyed God they spoiled the pristine purity of the original Paradise.  “Cursed is the ground because of you,” He declared.  The perfect harmony and balance that existed between man and nature was ruined.  Thus Paul writes here: “the creation was subjected to futility,” and “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”  So every living thing in the world and all their eco-systems have been affected.  Biology, zoology, anthropology have been dramatically changed.  And, assuming there was a global flood as the evidence suggests, then climatology and geology were radically altered, too.   
 
The earth is decaying; it’s winding down, wearing out, as Scriptures say.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics calls this “entropy” – the gradual tendency to degenerate from order to disorder.  Instead of improving, the environment is deteriorating.  And a big reason for that is sinful mankind.  We have inherited a corrupt nature, a virus in the computer of our brain, which is programmed to profit at the expense of others.  One example may be raping the resources of the earth with no regard for those who come after us.  Not content with merely reaping the fruits of one’s labor to sustain oneself and other dependents, we become gluttons, to put it bluntly.
 
There is much to be dismayed about in the deplorable situations we see in so many places: toxic wastes, acid rain, leaky landfills, nuclear melt-downs, oil spills, polluted lakes, sewer rivers, endangered species, and the list goes on.  We are taught to worry about the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe – often for good reason.  Who knows what someone else has done to it?  Are we part of the problem?
 
But there is hope here (vs21): “hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”  As believers in Christ, the Bible teaches, we are free from the slavery of sin.  We can make wise decisions.  Raised with Christ we have been renewed in our minds, recreated in our lives, no longer conformed to the world but transformed in our thinking.  We are, in short, a new creation.  And even now we are being reformed in the likeness of God our first parents experienced in Eden.  This will be evident not only in our relation to God but also in our relation to our neighbors and our shared environment. 
 
Yes, we may use natural resources for our benefit and the benefit of others.  We thank God for amazing modern inventions and conveniences which have improved the quality and quantity and longevity of life.  We know we need food, clothing, shelter and the jobs to provide them.  Transportation, education, recreation all have their place.  Producing energy, farming land, cutting timber, mining minerals, raising livestock, harvesting crops, fishing fisheries,  manufacturing products, packaging and distributing them, buying and selling them with the financial services needed – all can be done properly.  God blesses us through this free enterprise.  But children of God want to be cautious and prudent in their affairs lest what is permitted to be consumed starts to consume us.  We recognize how easily we can let our possessions possess us.  For that’s the root problem – a materialistic attitude that becomes a disposable mentality. 
 
Oh, there’s a lot of gray area – few black and white answers – in this whole debate.  You’ll never have a perfect society with imperfect people.  Utopia means no place.  Wheat and weeds live side by side, Jesus taught in the parable today.   At the least, however, we can seek information on the issues and get the facts as best we can, realizing that there may be opposite points of view requiring compromise and the lesser of two evils may settle disputes.
 
But as Christians we don’t have to become alarmists, spreading doom and gloom, preaching fear and hatred.  We still trust God to control His creation.  He said (Gen 8:22): “As long as the earth endures – seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer – will never cease.”   “The Lord will provide” is still our mainstay and mantra.  Nevertheless, we can understand recycling as just another word for stewardship.  Likewise, concern for the environment is another way of showing Christian love for others.  We certainly have no quarrel with that.  In fact, we have an obligation to preserve God’s creation for future generations to appreciate. 
 
Above all, however, the ecological battle raging today should remind us that the world as we know it is not going to last forever, and it’s not going to be ideal until God makes “a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness,” as Peter described it and John envisioned it in the New Testament.  That’s what Paul refers to here in verse 23: “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved.” 
 
In Sweden, I heard, government officials have declared that not only should people stop driving cars, but they should stop having babies to reduce CO2 emissions, their so-called, carbon footprint, ostensibly to save the planet.  Such extremism is a far cry from the environmental impact statement God has given us here today.  Frankly, I like the looks of the future He portrays a whole lot better.  As redeemed and adopted sons and daughters of God in Christ Jesus, we have a lot to look forward to.   Amen.