justice makes the earth rejoice

Justice Makes God’s Earth Rejoice

picture a peaceful lake with a rock sticking up in the middle of the waterFor many years, I learned more about how and why we should honor God’s earth from people outside the church than those within it. I learned from glimpses at Ojibwe spiritual practices of honoring creation when reading The Birchbark House books by Louise Erdrich with our daughter Marilee. I learned respect for every living creature from Buddhism. I learned from TED talks about the wonder of trees. 

In church, we didn’t talk about God’s care for the earth. We didn’t talk much about our bodies or our physical locations. We were concerned with the state of our souls. 

But as I began to learn about the intricacy and beauty of the earth from these people and spaces outside of Christianity, I also began to see how much the natural world matters to God.

Learning From the Earth

From the get-go, of course, there’s the exuberant dance of loving creativity in six “days” of both orderly and wildly abundant activity (Gen 1). But there’s also the way humans are meant to relate to the created order. Yes, we are meant to be “stewards” of it (something which we have largely failed to accomplish). And we are also meant to learn from it. To understand ourselves as trees, for example (see Psalm 1 and Ephesians 3, just as a start). To listen to the “groanings” of creation as a sign of the pain of this world (Romans 8:22).

Justice Makes God’s Earth Rejoice

We are meant to recognize that when creation “rejoices” it is because God’s justice has been enacted. “Let the [rivers and mountains] sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth” (Psalm 98). 

In the Bible, justice is not so much about punishment for wrongdoing. It is more about proactive concern for vulnerable people. When we—God’s stewards—care for the vulnerable ones in our midst, that often involves caring for the earth. Reducing pollution. Improving water quality. Creating systems for sustainable farming and logging and energy production. Caring for the earth can also mean seeking justice for people. 

So in this week of sorrow over gun violence and police violence and all the other longstanding social injustices that harm vulnerable people, let us pursue justice. The earth, and we, will rejoice.

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