1) the way that as Christians we ought to stand apart from the worship of the environment, and the self-worship that acts as if we are ultimately the saviours of the planet; and
2) the way that we ought to stand out as being different from the people who love the world covetously, addicted to comfort and possessions and travel, etc.
But I think that the positive part of a Christian approach to the environment involves more than just the ‘accidental environmentalism’ that comes from not being greedy. In addition to that, we are actually called to delight in and enjoy and value the physical creation. The world we live in is not our ultimate, eternal home, but it is still a good world, and a beautiful world, made by God and precious to him. God cares about this world that he has made, and his plans for the future involve not just a new us but a new heavens and a new earth.
Psalm 104 is full of this sort of delight in God's good creation:
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul!
O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
2 covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent.
10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills;
11 they give drink to every beast of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
they sing among the branches.
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
27 These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works...
God enjoys his creation, and we should enjoy his creation. If we don’t, we dishonour God. As Christians, we enjoy the creation because it points us to the creator. So the psalm ends:
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the Lord.
There's a wonderful illustration by CS Lewis, that describes this:
I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences. (C.S.Lewis, Meditation in a Toolshed', God in the Dock, p.212)
As Christians, we don't just look at the beam (the creation), we look along the beam (to the Creator). But that doesn’t mean that we ought to ignore the beauty of the beam itself. The beauty and the brightness of the beam of light are a testimony to the brilliance of the sun that it shines out from. The beauty of the creation is a testimony to the glory and the wisdom of God the creator.
It's good for us to honour God by spending time enjoying the good gift of what he's created.
So here's some 'homework'! List 10 things you've noticed recently about the details of God's creation. Maybe you could even take a notepad and pen and go for a walk and do it? I'd love to hear what you come up with.
Pics from aussiegal and istockphoto