All things created for God’s pleasure: reflection for Earth Day

Revelation 4:11 can be legitimately translated thusly:

You are worthy, our Lord and God
to receive glory, honor, and dominion
for you created all things.
For your pleasure they came into being
and continue to exist.

Yesterday was Earth Day, a day when many people reflect on the health of the natural world and the relationship between human beings and the planet. Even though awareness of ecological issues is probably higher now than at any time in recent history, as awareness has increased so has the gravity of the situation. Estimated effects of anthropogenic climate change (also known as “global warming”) appear to be heading towards the more extreme end of the potential disasters, with warming feedback loops taking effect more drastically and quickly than previously thought. Studies over the last couple of years have argued (in my opinion persuasively) that increased ocean surface temperatures due to global warming are largely responsible for the increased intensity of hurricane seasons in recent years. The combination of global warming and peak oil scenarios seriously threatens nearly all sectors of the planet’s population, human and nonhuman.

I’ve written before about problems with the economic scheme that requires perpetual growth to stave off collapse and its devastating effects on the ecosphere and human communities. That isn’t new. But I have been remiss in my explorations into the Biblical concepts of creation and new creation and their implications for ecology and economics by neglecting the principle espoused by the above verse: all things exist for God’s pleasure.

In the evangelical circles I’ve frequented much of my adult life the idea that God gets pleasure from our existence, from our dependence on God and our desire to serve, is hardly controversial. I have heard a few dozen sermons on this idea, the idea that God loves me for who I am, and that my life is something about which God is passionate. Ok, so the italics may be a bit much, but I’m sure you get my point. Like other things, the idea of God’s passion and pleasure has been largely presented to me as a matter that affects me as an individual, but anything outside the scope of “me and Jesus” is largely neglected. Loving one’s neighbor is a good thing, but really it’s about my spiritual journey and growth.

Loving one’s neighbor as one’s self is a hugely important concept for Christian faith. It’s the second-greatest commandment, after all! But love of neighbor is not a free-standing command that can be imported easily into any context. While it is a concept found in many different religious and ethical traditions, some of which are not necessarily genetically related, we cannot understand the basis of Jesus’ teaching on this subject unless we grasp deeply the Hebrew notion of creation as done by God’s will and for God’s own pleasure. Indeed, each of our acts towards the Other, be it the human or nonhuman other, must be rooted in this truth: I love the Other because the Other is God’s own creation and her/his/its existence and well-being gives God pleasure.

How much different would our ecological and community lives be if, instead of self-interest, even “enlightened self-interest”, our relations were born from a deep realization that all of creation exists for God’s pleasure? How much more would we seek to honor the Creator and Sustainer of our own being by seeking the best for all beings? I believe a key role for the church in this age is to create real communities where we do not look to other created beings, whether human, vegetable, animal, mineral, or other, to sustain us without being concerned for their own sustenance. This need is particularly acute in this time of crisis, but it is written into the Biblical narrative of creation and new creation. All things are from God, and at most we merely have them on loan. For us, Earth Day should be a day of repentance for the ways we have colluded in the murder of God’s creation, as well as our creation of social, political, and economic systems that oppress, exploit, and murder human beings.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.

4 Responses

  1. Even these people who don’t think climate change is caused by man should at least realize the climate is changing and we should at least be prepared for the change. Wars over water and food supplies, mass migration, etc are all possibilities even if this is a natural occurring phenomenon.

  2. A great critique of the modern church. Beautifully written.

  3. This is very interesting.It reminds us of God’s purpose forb our creation.We should endeavour to do God’s purpose so as to make Him take pleasure in our lives.Otherwise our purposes in creation will be defeated.
    Stephen Kalu

  4. Well,we should take good care what GOD created because without this creation we cant live without air ang water

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