‘In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.’ Genesis 1:1-2.
Genesis shows many amazing things about God’s creation and how we are called as humans to give glory to the Lord our God through how we look after the environment.
This first passage of Genesis gives testament to the transformative power of God. We’re told “the earth was formless and empty” or “tohuwabohu” in the original Hebrew, a phrase referring to something that was in disorder or chaos.
When we hear the latest reports on declining biodiversity, of record-breaking greenhouse gases and the devastating impact of extreme weather events, it can certainly feel chaotic. Yet, in this opening passage in Genesis, despite the disorder, the Holy Spirit is moving.
Even in the chaos of the waters and the unformed earth, there is hope found in the Holy Spirit. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to bring order, hope and life. When we’re facing the hopelessness that comes from facing a climate crisis, from seeing a world damaged, broken and hurt by our corruption, arrogance and greed, the Holy Spirit can bring restoration and redemption. God remains intimately connected with His creation – in this passage, through the whole Biblical narrative and yes, even now in a climate crisis.
The Holy Spirit in this passage is creating life, creating hope, creating a vision of a peaceful, ordered, beautiful world. We read that God creates people from the dust of the earth and gives humanity the responsibility for the creation He has so thoughtfully made. In later passages (Genesis 1:26-29) the words “dominion” and “subdue” refer to God’s desire to work in partnership with us to create beauty out of chaos and to be good stewards of this beautiful world.
God continues to give us that choice – we can choose to work in partnership with Him or to define for ourselves what it means to have dominion and subdue the environment. We’re on the verge of a climate catastrophe – therefore it’s clear what our decision has been and still is.
Interestingly, God’s response is a plan that would restore all the world and redeem it into its state of glory. Throughout the Old Testament, we see time and again God promising to redeem all things through Israel – including promises of a redeeming figure one who would possess the very Spirit of God who brings life from chaos. Jesus, the one who came to restore us and creation into its original glory.
We know our hope as Christians come from what Jesus did for us but what does that mean at a ‘tipping point’ moment in humanity’s history?
It means that despite the chaos and the questions raised by climate change there is hope – we know as Christians that Jesus is Lord of Creation, the restorer of all things when we live from the hope we have as God’s people that frees us from the burden and the pressure of guilt and shame.
When it comes to the environment, if we have no hope that things can be better then we have no reason to try. But we can hope because this is God’s world and Jesus came to restore the environment and to work with and through us to restore it too.
Hope however, on its own, is pointless and a waste of time! If hope does not show itself in action then hope is useless. However, we also cannot have life-changing, problem-solving, redeeming action if we do not first have hope that our efforts are not in vain. I find Charles Wesley’s words helpful in thinking about climate change and our responsibility to God’s creation:
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
The resolution of the climate crisis lies in our attitudes and how that manifests itself in our day to day lives. We need to do all the good we can in all the ways we can, but also recognise our limitations and abound in hope from above.
This reflection was written by A Rocha UK’s Community and Conservation Intern, Sam Dawson for the Wild Christian December email, ‘Nature and climate change.’