Clothesline in Winter

Clothesline in Winter

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Our World Belongs to God

We have longed for the day when an evangelical Protestant denomination would issue a robust case for creation care as a key element of faith and mission.  Perhaps that would silence to those who proclaim that evangelical faith equals environmental abuse and neglect.

Well, as it happens, the Christian Reformed Church, with more than 1,000 congregations in North America, has taken a strong stand on creation care.  Their 2008 declaration, “Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony” sets forth a clear call to kingdom discipleship, addressing justice, mercy and gospel proclamation in virtually every arena of life.  And while affirming God’s ownership and dominion over the creation, the CRC declaration accepts human responsibility as “earthkeepers and caretakers” bearing God’s image.  Further, they confess our abuse of God’s creation, and lament the “lasting damage to the world we have been given: polluting streams and soil, poisoning the air, altering the climate, and damaging the earth.”

Despite this lament, the CRC finds room for optimism, for they stand on the certainty that God’s rule will ultimately prevail, and that he will redeem all things that have been marred by human sin.

Evangelical and Reformed Christians would do well to take notice, since the CRC has taken the lead in articulating a basis for hope – and a blueprint for just living – in a world where environmental abuse and degradation threaten countless species and millions of humans.
What follows is an abbreviated version of the CRC declaration.

Our World Belongs to God

1. As followers of Jesus Christ, living in this world—
which some seek to control, and others view with despair—
we declare with joy and trust: Our world belongs to God![i]

4. … Our world, fallen into sin, has lost its first goodness,
but God has not abandoned the work of his hands:
our Maker preserves this world, sending seasons, sun, and rain,
upholding all creatures, renewing the earth,
promising a Savior, guiding all things to their purpose.[ii]

10. … Made in God’s image to live in loving communion with our Maker,
we are appointed earthkeepers and caretakers to tend the earth, enjoy it,
and love our neighbors. God uses our skills for the unfolding and well-being of his world so that creation and all who live in it may flourish.[iii]

12. … Even now, as history unfolds in ways we know only in part,
we are assured that God is with us in our world,
holding all things in tender embrace and bending them to his purpose.
The confidence that the Lord is faithful gives meaning to our days
and hope to our years. The future is secure, for our world belongs to God.[iv]

15. … When humans deface God’s image, the whole world suffers:
we abuse the creation or idolize it; we are estranged from our Creator,
from our neighbor, from our true selves, and from all that God has made.[v]

23. … Remembering the promise to reconcile the world to himself,
God joined our humanity in Jesus Christ—the eternal Word made flesh.
He is the long-awaited Messiah, one with us and one with God,
fully human and fully divine, conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.[vi]

39. … The church is a gathering of forgiven sinners called to be holy.
Saved by the patient grace of God, we deal patiently with others
and together confess our need for grace and forgiveness.
Restored in Christ’s presence, shaped by his life,
this new community lives out the ongoing story of God’s reconciling love,
announces the new creation, and works for a world of justice and peace.[vii]

43. … Jesus Christ rules over all. To follow this Lord is to serve him wherever we are
without fitting in, light in darkness, salt in a spoiling world.[viii]

51. … We lament that our abuse of creation has brought lasting damage
to the world we have been given: polluting streams and soil,
poisoning the air, altering the climate, and damaging the earth.
We commit ourselves to honor all God’s creatures
and to protect them from abuse and extinction,
for our world belongs to God.[ix]

55. … Our hope for a new creation is not tied to what humans can do,
for we believe that one day every challenge to God’s rule will be crushed.
His kingdom will fully come, and the Lord will rule.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.[x]

57. … On that day we will see our Savior face to face,
sacrificed Lamb and triumphant King, just and gracious.
He will set all things right, judge evil, and condemn the wicked.
We face that day without fear, for the Judge is our Savior,
whose shed blood declares us righteous.
We live confidently, anticipating his coming, offering him our daily lives—
our acts of kindness, our loyalty, and our love—knowing that he will weave
even our sins and sorrows into his sovereign purpose.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.[xi]

58. With the whole creation we join the song:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth
and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
He has made us a kingdom of priests to serve our God,
and we will reign on earth. God will be all in all, righteousness and peace will flourish,
everything will be made new, and every eye will see at last that our world belongs to God.
Hallelujah! Come, Lord Jesus![xii]

© 2008, Christian Reformed Church in North America, Grand Rapids MI. Reprinted with permission.

Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.

J. Elwood

[i] For God’s ownership of all things, see Psalm 24:1 (quoted in 1 Cor. 10:26), Job 41:11, and Deuteronomy 10:14. That this is also “our world”—given to the human race to keep and care for—is one of the themes of the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2.

[ii] See Genesis 3; 9:8-16; Psalm 104, especially verse 30; Matthew 5:45; and Acts 14:17. For the promises of a Savior, see Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; 11:1-5; 42:1-7, 53; and Micah 5:2.

[iii] For the image of God, see Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10; and James 3:9.

[iv] For the providential care of God, see Isaiah 45:6-7, Matthew 6:25-34, and Luke 12:4-7.

[v] On the defacing of God’s image, see Romans 1:21-23; for the restoration of the image in Christ, see Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 4:22-24, and Colossians 3:10.

[vi] For Jesus as the incarnate Son of God, see Luke 1:31-35, John 1:1-14, and Hebrews 1:2-3.

[vii] On the church as a forgiven community called to be holy, see Ephesians 1:3-7; on dealing with one another patiently, Galatians 6:1-5 and Colossians 3:12-14; on the need for confession and restoration, 1 John 1:8-2:6; and on living out God’s reconciling love as part of a new creation, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 and 1 John 3:16-17.

[viii] On the rule of Christ over the whole world, see Philippians 2:9-11, Colossians 1:15-20, and Revelation 11:15; on being light, salt, and not fitting in, see Matthew 5:13-16 and Romans 12:1-2.

[ix] Genesis 1:28-29; 7:1-5; Psalm 8; and Romans 8:18-25 teach that we are entrusted with caring for the earth.

[x] On this hope, see 1 Peter 1:3-12, 2 Peter 3:3-13, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, and Revelation 11:15.

[xi] Revelation 5 describes the Lion and the Lamb. For the just judgments of the Lord, see Revelation 19:1-10. A picture of the multitude of those declared righteous in Christ is found in Revelation 7:9-17. The concept of God weaving all things together is found, among other places, in Romans 8:28-39.

[xii] For the imagery of this paragraph, see Exodus 19:5-6, Isaiah 40, 1 Peter 2:9-10, and Revelation 4-5.

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