Check out this blog I co-wrote with Britt Fuller over at Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform: “To Love God is to Love Our Immigrant Neighbors.”
We often speak of ‘loving our neighbors’ but it’s really hard when we don’t even know our neighbors. I see this to be a growing problem – not just in the [C]hurch but our larger society. Why is it so hard to meet and grow with our neighbors?
And how about those who are the “others” in our society? When we’re unable to learn and hear (even for a glimpse) the stories of others who are suffering or enduring through some form of injustice, they only become issues, statistics, and whatever other words we tend to use.
Today is Blog Action Day 2009, an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day. The aim of the organizers, including Change.org, is to raise awareness of said issue, and in so doing, to trigger a global discussion. This year’s issue: Climate Change.
So here’s my take on the story of environmental stewardship, according to the Bible:
God created the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
God created human beings. (Genesis 1:26)
God told human beings to look after the earth. (Genesis 1:28)
Human beings screwed up. (A large portion of the rest of the Bible.)
And that’s that.
Or at least, that’s the (over-)simplified précis.
A theology of ecology, a theology of creation care, is part of—and is consistent with—a grander biblical theology, woven through with themes that can be found throughout Scripture:
It’s about stewardship, about being respectful and responsible with the resources and the gifts that God has given us in his creation. It’s about sharing in God’s appreciation for the world which he called “very good” (Genesis 1:31), and recognizing, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48).
It’s about the poor, those who have not are often the hardest hit by the excesses of those who have. The writer of Proverbs said, “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker” (14:31), and even if we’re not directly treating them badly, such an injunction should at least make us think twice about how we live.
It’s about relationship and community, about a harmonious and healthy interaction not only with the people around us but with the world around us, realizing that what we do with the latter will always impact the former at some level. Jesus said that loving one’s neighbor was akin to loving God (Matthew 22:36-40), so if we love God as we claim to, we will love those with whom we share in the gift of God’s creation.
It’s about children, those to whom Jesus said the kingdom of God belonged (Mark 10:14). I have two nieces and three nephews, aged between 18 months and 13 years, and the world they will inherit depends on what we do with it. To quote a Native American proverb (yes, I know it’s not in the Bible!), “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” Put more bluntly, those that follow us have to deal with our mess. Jesus values children; if I love Jesus, I will also value children, and I will care about what I leave to them.
It’s about justice, about recognizing that when a small proportion of the earth’s population exhaust its resources and the rest have to face the brunt of the consequences, that isn’t right. And when the God you worship, serve and follow, is described as a God of justice,* and when you’re encouraged to “do justice” (Micah 6:8) … well, it should probably make a difference on how we live, shouldn’t it?
Because, on the most encompassing level of all, it’s about God: the one who made the earth and everything in it (Psalm 24:1). Wendell Berry wrote, “our destruction of nature is not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy” (Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community, 98). Whatever we do with what God has made or given—human or otherwise—is a reflection on what we think of God, the Maker and Giver.
I think the world might look very different if we lived like we knew that.
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth … God saw all that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.
(Genesis 1:1, 31)
* I’m not going to post all the references to God’s justice, because that would take up too much space (which says something in itself), but here are a few: Deuteronomy 10:17-19; Leviticus 25; Psalm 37:28, 103:6; Amos 5:23-24; Jeremiah 22:16; Isaiah 58:6-10. You can read more on God as a God of justice here.
My twelve year-old niece Aimee emailed me recently. She has to do a presentation in class on someone who’s successful. So I was a little bit surprised and very honored that she chose me! In fact, one of the first questions was, “What is your most successful achievement?” And that had me stumped.
I’m not really sure what my most successful achievement would be. Maybe the fact that I moved half the world away from my family when I was 15, but then lots of people move and adjust to new environments nowadays. Maybe the fact that I’m a musician with his own music video? But then, there are millions of better known and more talented and more published artists. Maybe the fact that I’ve collected four degrees in nine years of higher education? Then again, I certainly wasn’t a child prodigy, and I’m certainly not the smartest person in the world!
Thinking about it more, I think my most successful achievement is figuring out what success really is, realizing that success isn’t necessarily about beating everyone in a competition or in a race, or about getting better grades than everyone else.
Success is being a good human being, a good person. Success is loving God, loving your neighbors, and loving your enemies. Success is figuring out who you are, figuring out what you’re good at, and being the best that you can be—the best that God created you to be—and knowing that that is enough, and that that is all that God asks of you. Success is helping those in need, speaking up for those who can’t speak for themselves, protecting the weak and the marginalized. Success is showing patience, kindness, grace, humility, mercy, joy, faithfulness, and love in all of our relationships. Success is being faithful and hopeful and loving in spite of all the challenges that the world and life throw at us.
In the process of learning, I’ve had many experiences that have made me question myself, my abilities, my talents, even my worth as a person. I’ve suffered disappointments in my work, felt unable to produce anything good—both in terms of music and in life in general—and known heartbreak and letdowns in relationships.
We live in a culture that measures success by comparing us to other people, and so one of the big challenges for me was realizing (and continually reminding myself) that I don’t need to compare myself to other people. All I need to do is the best that I can do; all I need to be is the best that I can be.
And ultimately … any success I may have is only by the grace of God. I suppose the way that I try to live out this kind of success is to be first grounded in God, to know what he says about me, to know that he loves me no matter what, to know that my family and my friends love me no matter what. There’s a freedom that comes with being secure in friendships and relationships, that allows us to be and do all that we can be and do.
So that’s been my success: understanding success as I think God sees it, and then living in the light and truth of that.