Today is officially Earth Day. The first Earth Day was observed April 22, 1970, the brainchild of Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin who was joined by Republican Congressman Peter McCloskey of California in launching the effort. The day is meant to raise awareness of the importance of being good stewards of our earth. Genesis 1 teaches that God created the earth, then gave human beings “dominion” over his planet. God expects us to reign well, remembering that the earth belongs to him.
Often we think of environmental concerns from the macro perspective – policy debates, philosophical arguments over the human impact on climate change, regulations related to energy use and waste produced. These are important conversations to have. But these often seem far removed from our daily lives, issues to be worked out by politicians and policy makers.
But caring for the earth and conserving and caring for its resources is also something we each can do on a daily, often hourly, basis. And every intentional act of caring for the earth that God has made, that God has entrusted to our dominion, can be for us an act of worship and Christian discipleship.
Often we think of Christian discipleship as something we do when we read our Bible, attend a study, pray daily, and serve others. We think of worship as something we do in church on Sunday. But discipleship and worship are also found in the seemingly mundane things we do a hundred times a day, and in the decisions we make about the habits and patterns of our lives.
When we make a conscious decision to turn the thermostat down in the winter or up in the summer this can also be for us an act of worship and Christian discipleship. When we turn the light switch off as we leave a room, take shorter showers, or choose to buy a car that is more energy efficient than the one we’re replacing, these too can be acts of worship and discipleship. There are thousands of examples in our daily lives, none of which seems dramatic.
Some years ago this is how I began to look at these simple decisions. I do these things not because I’m trying to save on the electric bill, but because I want to honor God, to care for our planet, and to conserve resources for future generations. But I’m not a paragon of perfection on this, and I am full of inconsistencies here. Sanctification is a journey. We’re on our third hybrid car – it gets 40 mpg - but there is a question about battery disposal on these. But I also have Mustang that averages 21 mpg – I appeased my conscience when I bought it by noting that this was a 10% jump in fuel economy from my last Mustang (something I’ve encouraged our church members to set as a minimum goal when they buy a new car), but still nothing like a small fuel sipper I could have bought.
Here’s my point, if you are a Christian, start seeing these small decisions and acts as not simply economic decisions, but as acts that reflect your belief that “the earth is the Lord’s” (Ps. 24:1) and that God cares about the earth and wants us to care for it well. Take steps in this path. Hundreds of millions of people making small daily, even hourly, decisions can have a huge positive impact on our planet. When we do this we begin to observe Earth Day every day, and I believe we please the One who created this earth and gives it to us to inhabit and enjoy.