The Village of Frankfort celebrated Earth Day and Arbor Day last Saturday with a community clean-up. It was great to see many people from our church tackle the section of Route 30 surrounding us, picking up everything from candy bar wrappers to a car windshield. Thanks to everyone who came!

Our church’s participation caused me to reflect on my own journey of thought regarding environmentalism. Growing up, the environment wasn’t even on my radar screen and things like Earth Day were completely ignored in most of the circles of influence around me. My base line thought process was summed up in the often sarcastic mantra of many Christians: “It’s all going to burn in the end anyways.” Such disregard was pretty hypocritical, given how much I enjoyed the outdoors, not to mention the fact that it was thoroughly unbiblical. I don’t deny that there will be a new earth one day to replace this sin-cursed one, but Romans 8:21 seems to indicate that the coming of that new earth is less about the destruction of the created order and more about its redemption. The parallel can be seen in the fact that I care for my own body as worship to God, though I know I will one day receive a new, resurrection body; I should do the same for creation. And if the coming of the new earth at the end of time is akin to redemption, than it is in some way wrapped up in the wider focus of the cross. In other words, while the death and resurrection of Jesus are primarily about the atonement of God’s children, it could be said that the restoration of all things in the end, including creation, is also something made possible by the work of Christ. Caring for creation moves from a cursory issue to a cross issue.

My hypocritical and uninformed thoughts slowly softened after getting married and learning that my wife was committed to recycling, a practice I had never adopted. Around that same time I was directly challenged in a Systematic Theology class in seminary taught by Dr. Gregg Allison. I ended that class by writing a paper about how Christians should make creation care a priority, not simply because of utilitarian reasons (“if we don’t take care of this place, things will turn out bad for us later”), but primarily because our world reflects God’s glory and has been made for us to enjoy.

My journey has taken me from almost total disregard to seeing that caring for our planet is rooted in the act of creation, the work of the cross and resurrection, God’s glory, and my joy. I now believe Christians have the greatest reasons in the world to be at least somewhat involved in aspects of environmentalism.

I’ll admit that I am still developing in my understanding of how Christians should exercise creation care, but it is something Christians need to think about. Regardless of our understanding of or opinions about the current hypotheses regarding the future of our planet, every generation has legitimate environmental concerns that no one will argue with. And for better or worse, these concerns are at the forefront of many people’s minds in our day, including evangelicals. An insightful Christianity Today article by Telford Work on the release of The Green Bible quoted a Barna Group study that stated, “Nine in ten American evangelicals would like Christians to care more actively for creation.” That desire is probably closer to God’s heart than I would have admitted years ago.

And this renewed focus on creation care not only fits into the church’s theology, but her outreach as well. Environmentalism is a concern for many, but often for false or misinformed reasons. When the church lends a hand in cleaning the earth and communicates the gospel- and God-centered reasons behind such actions, we point those in our world to look outside themselves and to the firstborn of all creation, through whom and for whom all things have been (Colossians 1:15-16).