Confessing for the Church (Part 2)

[This is the last half of a confession I wrote in 1990 after I felt a clear calling to approach the evangelical community with a message of creation care as founder and president of the Christian Nature Federation.]

In His masterful Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of another sin which we are compelled to confess: laying up treasure on earth. Experience and science are both trying to tell us that the earth has a marvelous capacity to feed, house, and clothe the masses of people that inhabit the earth—so long as individuals do not hoard or consume more than their fair share. Yet this is what the developed nations, and we Christians who live in them, have become masters at. That we can lip the words “it is better to give than receive” or “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and not live them is clearly shameful. [Read the blog at this photo source.]

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:19-24).

In everything I [Paul] did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)

Going back to the beginning of Jesus’ sermon, we discover that those who are blessed are those who are humble, those who mourn, the meek and lowly, those who long to be just and good, the kind and merciful, those whose hearts are pure, those who strive for peace, and those who are persecuted because they are good. If our actions and attitudes toward the earth and all its people do not reflect these values, then we must repent, for we have sinned.

One of our greatest sins is our believing that the law of sowing and reaping has been repealed for our benefit. How else can we explain our foolish behavior in polluting the air, land, and water; consuming our descendants’ inheritance; destroying non-human life that in turn supports human life; wasting our soil; wasting energy; and destroying our bodies through poor eating habits and the lack of exercise. Do we truly believe we can sow folly and not reap destruction? (Job 4:8)

Then there is our common practice of being so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good. Although we rightly believe that our final rewards are in heaven (when it comes to the restored earth), we have never been given any reason to believe that God does not care for the earth as it now is and that we do not have responsibilities in turn to treat His creation with care and wisdom. We sing “this world is not my home; I’m just a passin’ through” foolishly denying that while we are here, earth is indeed our home. Though the Bible tells us that the earth will become old “like a garment,” it nonetheless speaks of dire penalties for those who would despoil it (Rev 11:15-18). Strangely, we recognize that our bodies become old and deteriorate, yet we still try to maintain them in good health. T.S. Eliot reminds us: “Yes, our citizenship is in heaven; but that is the model and type for our citizenship on earth.” 

More confessions must be made: that we have been the perpetrators as well as the victims of usury (Exo. 22:25); that we have spurned manual labor as demeaning and have virtually spent the earth to avoid “eating by the sweat of our brow” (Gen. 3:19); and that we have been land grabbers denying to others the rightful use of their own small piece of earth for sustenance (Isa. 5:8)

All people, Christians included, hate to be told “shame on you.” But that is exactly what those genuinely concerned about the state of God’s good creation have been saying to us. And with so many environmentalists heading in all directions away from Christianity, it is especially difficult to confess to them and all others that we’ve sinned. 

We ought to be shamed by the fact that while our Christian faith holds the remedy for the world’s environmental ills, millions are turning to Eastern religions, pagan ritualism, and Godless science for answers. We have truly neglected our scriptural instruction, our heritage, our calling, our place. In humility we must kneel before a hurting world and a grieving God and confess, “We have sinned!”

No confession is sincere, however, unless it involves a change of behavior. To admit that one has been wrong and then refuse to replace wrong behavior with correct behavior only increases the evil.  Alexander Solzhenitsyn always seemed to be such a sour-faced curmudgeon, but he got a lot of things right; yet the people of the industrial North, to our loss, did not pay much attention to what he said—especially about personal and national repentance:

Repentance is only a clearing of the ground, the establishment of a clean basis in preparation for further moral actions—what in the life of the individual is called “reform.’” And if in private life what has been done must be put right by deeds, not words, this is all the more true in the life of a nation. Its repentance must be expressed not so much in articles, books, and broadcasts as in national actions. . . . Whether the transference of individual human qualities to society is easy or difficult in a general way, it is immensely difficult when the desired moral quality has been almost completely rejected by individual human beings themselves. This is the case with repentance. The gift of repentance, which perhaps more than anything else distinguishes man from the animal world, is particularly difficult for modern man to recover . . . . The habit of repentance is lost to our whole callous and chaotic age.  [Emphasis mine]

I feel it is past time for institutional Christianity—the church—to heed what, according to John, the Spirit said to one of the churches of Asia Minor in the Revelation: “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God” (Rev. 3:2) [Again, emphasis mine]

Indeed, our deeds have been unfinished. I’m convinced that He awaits our sincere repentance—then our hopping to our neglected duty to strengthen everything that remains.