Thursday, February 23, 2012

“Creation Care”

First Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Creation Care"
For the week of  February 19-25, 2012
"Creation Care" or environmental awareness --  the theme of this week's Sabbath School lesson -- originated in the Garden of Eden during creation week. Caring for creation was the first job description ever given to man by God (Genesis 1:26, 28). Even in the newly-created world, animals, birds and fish must be subdued and trained; and the earth with its abundant production of plants and trees required wise management and oversight.
But with the entrance of sin came a shift in focus. Instead of using the things God had created to bless others, man perverted the noble uses of plant, human, and animal life for selfish ends. Tragically, as violence and corruption rapidly overspread the earth, God saw only one way to save the world -- and that was to destroy it with a flood. Creatures that had never sinned suffered on account of man's selfishness. Almost all creation perished in the flood.
After the flood God promised, "I will never again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.
"While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease" Genesis 8:21, 22.
Because of this promise, we are still alive on earth today, despite the fact that the imagination of man's heart grows more evil with every passing day. Not until the Lord returns for the second time in the clouds of heaven will the earth be destroyed, but it does continue to grow old like a garment because of the sinfulness of man. Implicit in the secular environmental movement today is the acknowledgement that we ourselves, through our own selfish practices, have done much to ruin our world. 
It's fascinating to note Ellen White's observation that in places where sin was most grievous before the flood, there the after-effects on the land were most heavily felt; whereas the most pristine locations on earth today mark where sin was not as great. Underlying the environmental troubles we face today is a spiritual problem which cannot be solved merely by recycling plastic bottles or using cloth shopping bags, good though these things may be.
Being environmentally aware or "green" has achieved "cool" status in our consumption-driven, take-out-meal society. But even being "green" has its politically-correct limits. Have you ever heard an environmentalist mounting a national campaign to encourage vegetarianism in our society? Hasn't happened, even though eliminating consumption of beef would free up millions of acres of land, which could be much more efficiently utilized to grow food for people than animals. God called us to have dominion over the animal creation, but we have exploited, and continue to exploit these humble creatures for selfish purposes.
In the quote for Friday's lesson, Ellen White explains, "There is nothing, save the selfish heart of man, that lives unto itself. . . . There is no leaf of the forest or lowly blade of grass, but has its ministry" DA p. 20, 21. Fundamentally, the environmental issue is a spiritual one.
The reason our planet is in trouble today is because mankind has lived against the law of agape, or self-giving love. All creatures, plants, flowers, and trees live to give. Man alone lives to get without giving back. We are reaping the consequences of a 6,000-year experiment in self-centered living. Even unbelievers recognize this way of living is unsustainable.
In His brief 33-year sojourn in this world, Jesus exemplified the principle of self-sacrificing love in everything He did. That means that Jesus never lived for Himself. As we trace through the pages of sacred history, we find principles that will guide us as stewards of the earth and all His blessings to us.
After feeding the crowds of 4,000 and 5,000 on the mountainside, Jesus "said to His disciples, 'Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost' " John 6:12.
This principle alone -- faithfully practiced in the daily life -- encourages a sense of responsibility to share the blessings we have received from God with others. Gathering the fragments means not wasting heaven-sent resources.  
In a practical sense, this means we won't allow junk to accumulate in our garages. We'll pass along the things we don't need to others who do. We will live within our means.  We won't throw trash out the window of our car. We will recycle what we can because that's part of living to bless others. We will keep our yards beautiful because that is a part of the dominion God has given us. We will do all we can to treat the animal creation with love and kindness. We will be known in the world as a people who value heaven's precious resources. And we will point people to Jesus who is coming again, and who alone can change our cold, selfish hearts into warm, caring ones that live to give.
A few weeks ago we had a cooking class at our church. After the class, we served samples on disposable foam plates and utilized plastic silverware. An acquaintance of mine who is something of an activist in our town for all sorts of causes questioned me after the class. "I really appreciate the Adventists emphasis on vegetarian cooking and healthy living, but I don't understand why you use disposable plates and utensils. How is that consistent with your faith?" 
Her question was an honest one. I explained that we are in transition in our church kitchen with plans to buy more dishes, but at present we didn't have enough to serve a large group such as that one.
However, at the next event, I made sure that I borrowed enough plates from friends so that everyone got to eat on a glass plate with real silverware. My friend smiled with approval. In the grand scheme of things, disposable plates may not be the major issue, but it's sobering to realize that others are watching to see if we are living lives consistent with the message we claim.
--Patti Guthrie

Raul Diaz