“If creation care is so important, why didn’t Jesus speak about it?” The question wrong-footed me at first: after all, when Jesus summed up the Law and the Prophets he said, ‘Love God and love your neighbour’, not ‘Go hug a tree’!
“Look at the birds…” like this Sand Partridge (Ammoperdix heyi) © Marcel Holyoak
However, the deeper I look at the Gospels, the more convinced I’ve become that it’s the question that is wrong-footed. Here are four rapid reasons:
- How can we love God and our neighbour without caring for creation? Loving God means loving all that God created and sustains in love. Loving our neighbour means nurturing the good earth on which human flourishing depends.
- Things Jesus never talked about: Jesus was silent on many subjects Christians treat as important: attitudes to abortion and homosexuality (Jesus never addressed either directly), democracy, slavery… The point is, Jesus treated the Old Testament as God’s word, and so should we. He never revoked the creation command to look after God’s world and its creatures. Rather, he fulfilled the Genesis vision of humanity reflecting God’s image in our relationship with creation. Just as the first Adam (literally ‘made from earth’) was told to tend and keep the garden, so Jesus, the Son of Man (the son of, or second Adam) appreciated and cared for creation’s gifts. He based most of his parables on nature’s wisdom, building on the Psalms, Proverbs and Job in seeing nature as a commentary on scripture.
- It’s not just what Jesus said, it’s what he did, and who he was. In calming the storm, Jesus showed his authority over nature’s forces. He was, as John 1 puts it, the Word who existed from the very beginning, who spoke creation itself into being. He was, as Colossians 1 reminds us, the One by whom and for whom all things were made. No wonder that his birth was accompanied by shepherds leaving their sheep to worship one whom the angels spoke of bringing ‘peace on earth’ – literally, God’s shalom throughout the created order. No wonder that his death and resurrection were accompanied by earthquakes, as creation reacted to the Creator overcoming death and decay, and to the hope that creation itself would be set free from decay (Romans 8).
- Actually, Jesus did talk about creation! A few examples:
— ‘Look at the birds; look at the flowers.’ Earnestly study nature to discover your place in God’s world. Just as Adam took each species and named it, so the second Adam urges us to learn from God’s book of works.
— ‘God so loved the…?’ Whilst theologians argue about the exact meaning of ‘world’ in John 3:16, there’s no argument that God’s love encompasses all creation and Jesus died and rose so that all things in heaven and earth might be reconciled to God.
— ‘On earth as in heaven.’ The Lord’s prayer teaches that God’s Kingdom rule is to be earthed in the realities of this physical world.
— ‘Preach the Good News to all creation.’ Mark 16:15’s version of the Great Commission couldn’t be clearer. Our mission is to proclaim and demonstrate Jesus’ Lordship so that all creation points to him as Creator and Saviour.
Following Jesus is about letting him be Lord of all. His birth means all material creation is blessed. His death and resurrection defeat the laws of entropy and decay, and inaugurate the new creation. Creation care is essential to following Jesus.