Earth is home to people, and people matter to Jesus.
Apollo 8 shocked the world in 1968. A mission that was supposed to bring man to the moon also brought Earth to man. The amazing Earthrise photo was front page news around the world. We had never seen ourselves and our planet this way before. Fast forward to 2020. Viral memes poke fun at nature resetting in the wake of COVID-19, and more extreme advocates claim “man is the virus”. It would seem a good a time as any to ask: how does Jesus lead us to live and think about our planet?
Earth is our spaceship, designed by God.
Every single day, Earth travels 1.6 million miles through the vast vacuum of space, with +7 billion passengers. Our planet boasts a complex assortment of interplaying systems, like life support, food, and climate. God’s wisdom is on display top to bottom in the design of our Spaceship (Proverbs 8.22) Christians can look and marvel at our planet as a way to know our Creator.
Earth is our spaceship; we were God’s copilots.
At the start God invited us to step into the cockpit, and with him, rule the Universe. Genesis 1.28 tells us “God said to them (mankind): Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it and have dominion…” We were in God’s presence with an amazing purpose: to put our hands on the controls, with our Father, and join Him in ruling and reigning. Instead of taking the controls with God, we tried to take them from God.
We led a mutiny and put our spaceship aground.
The way we rise to power is the way we keep it. Should we be surprised that humanity’s reign on this planet has produced disorder, deceit, and death between fellow passengers? That’s our playbook. That’s how we tried to take control in the very beginning. (Genesis 3) What captains call “mutiny”, God calls “sin”. And sin brings death. The scars are everywhere and in everyone.
Our mutiny reveals our heart of darkness.
Surprisingly, we’ve remained committed to the mutiny, in spite of the evidence that it’s failed, terribly, with great costs. We think that if we could just fix the Spaceship: restore the rainforests, watch our emissions, and prevent extinctions it would prove we weren’t the problem. Japanese Theologian Kosuke Koyama reflects,
“What good is human progress if we harness nuclear energy, but fail to eradicate racism among us?”
There is a secular way of believing that “man is the problem”. Simple enough. But with no god, man must be the solution. This is our heart of darkness. Here, man is god. The horror. Every abortion clinic stands as evidence of this fact. In one act, we eradicate ourselves in exalting ourselves. We need the Captain back.
God is leading a rescue party.
Until we come to grips with the fact that human flourishing is impossible without divine presence, we’ll never give up the mutiny. That’s why God brought his presence to us in Jesus. He returns (did he ever leave?) to the world He created, and his love loosens our grip on the controls. He’s taken the lashes for our mutiny, and now he’s leading a rescue party with the very crew that turned on him. That’s a story for the ages.
The Christian endgame for Earth is to keep the lights on till the Captain’s rescue is done.
What if you were on Apollo 13? It was a mission to the moon that, after a catastrophic system failure, simply became a mission to come home. Wouldn’t you want the life support systems to last until you touched down safely?
“I’m going to heaven, who cares!” some say. Others (rightly) point out that modern environmentalism worships the creation not the Creator. True. But this is nothing more than posturing if it doesn’t witness to the rescue in progress. If we’re right but not kind, we’re not a rescue party, just a highway sign on the way to oblivion.
As Paul wrote, we Christians are debtors. Debtors to our fellow passengers on our Spaceship Earth and servants to our King. Christians don’t serve Mother nature, present ourselves as the solution, or restore the Universe to secure good karma. We join our Father’s rescue in progress of fellow passengers. (Mt. 28). When we devalue or destory the systems around our planet, we can disrupt needs for life or ways of life that serve as bridges for the gospel. By keeping our care of the planet in line with His mission to rescue passengers, we serve the vision of our King who is bringing His people to a new Creation. (Galatians 6)
What if Christians cared enough for our fellow and future passengers on Spaceship Earth to keep the lights on? To keep life support going for however long Jesus’ rescue party — the Church — is at work? For however long the journey home takes? I think it’s worth it.