“The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to man.” Sound like some of that “New Age” mumbo jumbo? It’s actually Psalm 115:16. This psalmist saw that the Earth is in the hands of humankind. Scary thought, I know, but like it or not we have been named as stewards. We have a track record of being careless, selfish, and destructive, but I believe humanity can change. I believe it must change.
Jesus made that change possible. In John 20 when Jesus rises from the dead where does Mary meet him? A garden. This is no accident. John wants the reader to understand that Jesus is the “New Adam” (N.T. Wright expounds on this in Jesus and the Victory of God). Jesus overcame the power that kept us from ruling the Earth rightly, and is now here to lead us back to Paradise from where we were first exiled. I don’t mean Heaven when I say Paradise. Gnostics, not Christians, believe that Heaven is our final destination. No, the Bible teaches that Heaven will come down so that God can be one with man again on the Earth. This means Paradise will be recreated by the fusion of Heaven and Earth. The Earth is not to be discarded as a rotten fruit, but renewed as in a Spring-time thaw (as C.S. Lewis points out in Narnia).
I used to think that since the final redemption has not fully come yet, I don’t need to worry about the environment, world peace or animal treatment (I hadn’t looked at the Old Testament too closely). But I realized I could just as easily say that about any form of righteousness. Why care about worship, purity or speaking truth if God’s finger is just dangling above the terrestrial reset button ready to set everything back to zero!? The truth is we must be living in, and actively moving towards Paradise now. When we sing songs to the Lord or take care of the poor, we are already waking up to Paradise. And when we steward the earth and its resources the same is true. Now, we will never be able to create utopia by our collective will and the sweat of our brow, but that’s not the point. The point is to participate in what God is already doing. This is obedience to Him. This is us walking with Him again, as Adam once did in the Garden.
I grew up thinking of the Earth as a great ash tray. I’ve changed, but I still have a lot to learn about sustainability and living harmoniously with God’s creation. Someday I hope to have a landscaping business, or maybe a subsistence farm with friends so I can continue to learn the basic principles of stewardship that gardening teaches. I suspect many of these revelations will show up here on my blog. I promise to try not to be too cheesy with the gardening metaphors ;).
In the Eastern Orthodox tradition there are two scriptures: The Bible and nature, and they interpret one another. I will be looking to both of these places to understand the way that economics, politics, religion, environments and culture should be shaped to function the way they were first intended in the Garden of Eden.