TODAY’S READING: Proverbs 28–29
Proverbs 29:13 states that the rich and poor have something in common: Jehovah gives light to the eyes of both. Wisdom and common grace extend to all ranges of economy and to all ethnicities of earth. What makes Proverbs uniquely missionary is that it addresses aspects of the heart, will, mind, and character common to all men everywhere—and it does so with evangelistic intent. In mission work, there is a vital place for those with a passion to care for God’s creation. Christopher Wright explains:
While the law and the prophets are so solidly founded on the core history of Israel, the Wisdom literature draws its theology and ethics from a more universal, creation based moral order. This too has missional implications. In approaching people of other cultures, faiths, and worldviews, we nevertheless share a common humanity and (whether they acknowledge it or not) a common Creator God. Particularly where our missional engagement operates at a cultural and societal level, addressing issues of ethical, social, economic, and political concern, we should not be surprised to find areas of common cause with people who would not identify with the biblical story of redemption. It is to that story that we hope ultimately to bring them… The biblical wisdom tradition shows us that there is as certain universality about biblical ethics simply because we live among people made in the image of God, we inhabit the earth of God’s creation, and however distorted these truths become in fallen cultures, they will yet find an echo in human hearts.
Wright says there is intrinsic value in taking care of God’s creation as we were told to do. When we care for creation, “it is not surprising…that those who take seriously, as Christians, our responsibility to embody God’s love for creation find that their obedience in that sphere often leads to opportunities to articulate God’s love for suffering and lost people.” Environmental care is not an end in itself. It is not the goal nor our essential mandate. Yet it is our obedience and must be done for the glory of God globally. Our essential commission is to make disciples. Wright also says:
Truly Christian environmental action is in fact also evangelistically fruitful…because it declares in word and deed the Creator’s limitless love for the whole creation (which of course includes his love for his human creatures) and makes no secret of the biblical story of the cost that the Creator paid to redeem both. Such action is a missional embodiment of the biblical truths that the Lord is loving toward all that he has made, and that this same God so loved the world that he gave his only Son not only so that believers should not perish but ultimately so that all things in heaven and earth should be reconciled to God through the blood of the cross. For God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.
Our approach to creation care is to make no secret of the biblical story of the cost Christ paid to redeem all men and all things. The goal is ever the redemption of souls, for humans are the crown of God’s creation. Still we cannot deny God’s love for all that He created nor His plan to renew all things including lakes, forests, mountains, meadows, flora and fauna, seas and oceans. We share a “common humanity, common because we all share the one Maker, God. So rich or poor, slave or free, oppressed or oppressor, we are all alike the work of God’s hands. What we do to a fellow human being, therefore, we do to his or her Maker, a profound ethical principle that Jesus reconfigured in relation to himself.”
What this practically and ethically means is that in Sudan we need men and women who love God’s creation and want to slow its decay. In that love they do not lose sight that men and women are the crown of God’s creation and any environmentalism is based on our common humanity which is based on our common Creator. That Creator has history with earth (as described in the Bible) and that Bible describes God’s redemption priorities and goals. The best environmentalist must be the most fervent evangelist. The missionary environmentalist is the one who prioritizes the saving of souls, the making of disciples, and the planting of churches by astutely embracing our common humanity, common wisdom, and common responsibility to steward God’s creation.