Meditations in Meaning & Values 30. Valuing our World
Gen 1:1,31 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth ….. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
We could not end a series about values without thinking about the world on which we live. Over the past fifty years a number of organisations have sprung up concerned with the welfare of the world. For instance Greenpeace whose vision statement declares “The underlying goal of all our work is a green and peaceful world – an earth that is ecologically healthy and able to nurture life in all its diversity.” What has been a shame is that Christians have been so heavenly minded that they missed the boat when it come to caring for God’s world.
So let’s ask a basic question: why care about this planet, what we do to it, how we treat it? A hundred years ago we would probably have viewed it as a big planet which was immune to our activities upon it. Today we see it as a ‘global village’ and holidays to all corners of the earth are common making it feel much smaller. Global warning has made us aware that what we do on the earth does affect it. Back in the past century there was a growing awareness that pollution could devastate local nature. Preservation and conservation are common words in the call to care for wildlife, plant or animal. All of these trends have caused voices to be raised in the name of preserving this world, saving the earth from destruction. Survival has moved on to the agenda. But is survival, as important as some would make that appear, the only cause to think about this world?
As Christians our starting place must surely be that the Bible firmly tells us that God created this world, He made a great job of it, and He made it for us. The Bible tells us that God is spirit (which I sometimes define as ‘energy with personality’ recognising that is about as far as we can go in understanding ‘spirit’) but He created and formed a ‘material’ or ‘physical’ world. Various thinkers from the past, Plato being a notable example, distinguished between material and spiritual on a bad and good basis. This was a false dichotomy because God creates both material and spiritual and when He had finished making this material world we read, as in our verses above, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”. If material had been bad then God would never have had his Son come to the earth in human form. After he was raised from the dead Jesus still had human form, even though it appears to have had some additional abilities. Amazingly when Jesus ascended back to heaven, he did it with a physical, human body.
When you start contemplating the world that God has given us, the mind starts to boggle. I always remember the quote that I once heard that there are well over a thousand sorts of edible bean in the world. Why? Why not just six, say? Our TV screens give us the answer: God clearly likes variety.
Solomon clearly had revelation when he wrote the book of Proverbs and no more so than in chapter 8 as he personifies wisdom in what has to be a description of the Son at the Father’s side during Creation: “I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” Prov 8:30,31) What a beautiful picture! “Rejoicing in his whole world”! And even more, “delighting in mankind”. How amazing, the Son enjoying the wonder of the world his Father was bringing into being and allowing him to help with. This says this world means something to the Father, it is His work of art and therefore the way we think about it will reflect something of how we think about Him. This world reflects Him as the apostle Paul wrote, “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.” (Rom 1:20)
But of course Sin entered this world and it is not quite as it was when God first made it: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Rom 8:19-22) Whatever else these complex verses say, they say that the world was affected by Sin (which God knew would happen) so that death and decay are ‘normal’ parts of it now, but the coming of Christians points to a new possibility yet to come. We see that new possibility right at the end of the Bible: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” (Rev 21:1) However we see this, certain things can be stated: a) this present world has a limited duration, b) God will remake both heaven and earth at some future time but note c) there is no indication that the ‘new earth’ is anything less than the original material (physical) earth that God originally created. A new physical earth appears clearly on God’s agenda for the future – yes, a physical earth. God clearly likes the physical dimension He has created, as well as the spiritual dimension.
So here we are, a world to care for and to enjoy, God’s gift to mankind. It is of limited duration because, it would appear from the revelation of the New Testament, God knows than mankind will abuse the present world, and so He plans a new earth at some future point. Enjoy it, thank Him for it, be careful with it. It is of immense value to Him quite clearly, so may it also be so for us.
And with that, I sense this series should come to an end.