While working on my sermon for Earth Day I learned about a man named Stuart Pimm. He is a Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University and has won the Heineken Prize. In addition to being a professor, Pimm is a champion of endangered species. He has been very involved in acquiring land in Brazil to help save a species of primates called the golden lion tamarin. Pimm was interviewed by the New York Times concerning his work and at the end of the interview was asked, for some reason, “Are you religious?” This was his response: “I’m actually a believing Christian and Christians have an obligation to care for the planet because it was made by God and does not actually belong to us. So we cannot simply fail to care for oceans, or forests, or creatures. That would be to fail to fulfill our obligations to God.”
I am very thankful that there are people, like Stuart Pimm, who realize that the care of the earth and its creatures are a divine obligation. Most Christians take seriously what they consider to be their divine obligations, whether that be praying, reading the Bible, going to church, tithing, witnessing or serving others. Unfortunately, not enough Christians realize that Creation Care is still yet another divine obligation. When we fail to care for Creation we let God down just as much as when we fail to do all those other things.
I don’t talk a whole lot about sin in this blog but I do believe that failure to be good stewards of God’s Creation is, indeed, a sin. In this regard, it is no different from our failure to fulfill any or all of our other obligations to God. Still, it may have further ramifications than some of our other failures because the health of the planet affects so many others. In fact, it affects all others.
I often tell people that the worst sin a Christian can commit is failure to obey the “greatest commandment” which is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31) When we fail to care for God’s Creation there is a sense in which we fail to love God, our neighbor and ourselves. Did not Jesus say we have a divine obligation to love all three? Let’s make sure we do!
(I took the top image last week at Lilley Cornett Woods in southeast Kentucky. I took the ocean scene in Hawaii and the whitetail fawn near Hazard, Kentucky.)