On a recent Saturday morning, I picked up trash with my church community around the neighborhoods that surround our church building. Walking street by street, families worked together sweeping up broken glass from the sidewalk and removing the abandoned bags and wrappers caught up in the bushes and trees. We walked up and down sidewalks, praying for the residents on each block and cleaning up trash left behind after the snow piles had retreated from the parkways.
Cleaning up our church’s neighborhood was a gesture of compassion for our neighbors and our world, yet it reflects back to the role that God gave to humankind at the beginning of time. We were assigned by God to be stewards of this world and care for creation. A contemporary testimony called Our World Belongs to God talks about this important role:
By sovereign appointment we are
earthkeepers and caretakers:
loving our neighbor,
tending the creation,
and meeting our needs.
God uses our skills
in the unfolding and well-being of his world.(10)
We have often failed to fulfill our duty to creation. Our world carries the scars of the abuse humans have done to it. Streams and rivers carry chemicals, our landfills are overwhelmed with waste. As more land is settled, numerous animal species are displaced and some face extinction. God's world, which we were given the job of tending, needs our care. Romans 8 describes creation as longing for God’s restoration.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in 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. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now (Romans 8:19-22).
God’s world is a masterpiece that speaks to the genius of our Creator God. God fashioned the extremely long neck of the giraffe as well as the duckbill found on the platypus. A visit to the aquarium rewards us with an astounding look at the diversity of our world. The planetarium invites us to marvel at the enormity of God’s creative canvas. Walking outdoors invites us to encounter plants and creatures up close. Learning about God’s world helps us to understand the heart of God. Tune in to hear what scientists say about the beauty and the struggles of the world around us. Take the time to learn about the environmental challenges and opportunities facing our world.
In addition to being caregivers for creation, we are also a part of God’s creation and fashioned in his image. As we care for plants and animals, it is good to remember that people are an important part of God’s creation. Loving our neighbors and caring for their needs are an important part of creation care. We show our love for God in the compassion that we show to one another.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
We matter to God and he has given us gifts to use in serving one another. Our lives are all a gift from our Heavenly Father and he invites us into the role of caring for all of creation.
The enormity of needs in our world can be overwhelming, but God is not asking us to fix it all. God is calling us to act in obedience to the needs before us. We recognize that each journey begins with a single step. Choose today to take a step that makes God’s world a better place. Reach out with compassion to care for God’s creation. What first steps might you take in your home and neighborhood?
Picking up trash with my church family demonstrated compassion for God’s world and our neighbors. When we are in tune to our role as image bearers of God, we overflow with grace and compassion. We can care for the environment through the choices that we make. We can eliminate waste by being careful about the products we buy and choosing to compost and recycle to limit what we place into landfills. We can ride a bike or walk rather than taking the car. We can sign petitions to lobby for laws that protect the environment. All of the choices we make have an impact. Even simple acts like joining with my church family for Saturday morning donuts and the opportunity to pick up trash in the neighborhood.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster