Happy Earth Day!
In the first season of the Big Bang Theory, Leonard and Sheldon are having one of their arguments. Where Leonard says, “Sheldon, we have to do this!” To which Sheldon, a genius, string theory physicist who graduated college at like 13, replies: “No we don’t. We have to take in nourishment, expel waste, and inhale enough oxygen to keep ourselves from dying. Everything else is optional.”
I spot a couple of problems with this genius’s theory about what we have to do. Do you see them? Let me illustrate…
The Earth, which is the planetary home of billions of plants and animals, and also us requires a delicate balance to keep producing life. See, just a small part of this symbiotic system is that green plants take in carbon dioxide and expel oxygen. Whereas, we, mammals, take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide.
Or how about this example: the bees help pollinate flowering plants the produce fruits, vegetables, and other food sources. These food sources are for us, as we eat them directly, and also as they feed cattle and other animals that are subsequently a part of our diet. Additionally, this process takes place in nature apart from human consumption or interference at all, which feeds much of the natural world’s plants and animals.
Do you see the problem yet? Not quite? Ok how about another….
Water from the ocean gets evaporated by the sun, rises to the clouds and when they become too heavy, they fall to the Earth as water droplets. This rain is what feeds and nourishes our crops, natural forest areas and wildlife, and of course us. And when we affect the atmosphere to where it rains either too much, aka hurricanes, or too little, a drought, it has rippling effects on drown crops or too dry. It’s a delicate balance.
Do you see the problem now? The problem with this scientific assessment is that it's purely selfish. If we are all selfish with our consumption then we deplete, throw off the balance, and damage the ecological symbionce of the Earth’s habitats.
If we are selfish with our consumption and only think of what I, the singular need, then we, the whole, are in trouble.
In our reading from 1st John chapter 3 today, we are taken back to yet another reminder of Jesus’ last commandment: To love. And so, the very question becomes: who belongs to the “each other” to which Jesus is referring?
Is it just the people in the room? Just friends and family? Our community? Christians? Americans? Or even just humans?
Even if we expand it to just humans, that still falls short of the care needed to sustain our world. Or for arguments sake, you do believe that God asks you to only care about humans, the degradation of the planet and continued selfish consumption does harm other humans. It harms humans in some places with toxic waste, in others a lack of water or food, and in others a surge in hurricanes and other life threatening phenomena caused by the imbalance of our planet's ecosystem.
“Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
Therefore, we must do more than just take in nourishment, expel waste, and inhale enough oxygen to keep ourselves from dying. Because it’s more than just about us.
We have to think bigger. Both in our action of love as we desire to follow Jesus, and in our view of the cross. See anywhere we read in English that “Christ died for you” or “for your sake”, the “you” is always plural in Greek. Always.
I’m going to push you to expand a little this morning. Stay with me.
We, in our first world, stable, secure, and safe culture, are engrained to look at the world individualistically. From an early age, we are to do our best for the “I” singular. Our job is to do what excels only ourselves. To pull only our own selves up by our bootstraps. We, also, only have to care about ourselves. So what if you don't own boots?
This is also seen in much of our theology. Remember, the way we view the Bible and subsequently how our view of God, Jesus, and God’s salvific works are through the lens that has been given to us.
And for we, in our first world setting, with our ancestors going back to Europe get these from those theologians. Which were also persons who had the privilege of security, stability, and cultural dominance.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “history is written by the victors”? The problem with this phrase, is how many other sides of the story are not being heard? For instance, the side of the victors says, we came to this new uncharted world and civilized it, cultivating its vast natural resources, and settled a new society where all white men can be equal.
Another perspective of this same event is: foreigners came and hurt us, invading our lands, pushing us away from our families and homes, giving us diseases that killed more of our family and friends, and ultimately displaced us from the home of our ancestors.
The hard truth is that these same ideals permeate our theology too. Because the former, are the guys that give us most of our historical theological doctrine. And this gets translated into much of the first world, and again I say that because Christians in other places do not share this view at all.
The theology that is permeated into our theological understanding of salvation is a singular one. The theological concept that Jesus died for ME. Singular. That Jesus died and rose from the grave so that I, just me, by myself, as long as I am a Christian and do the things that someone says I have to, that I am saved. The end.
This view of salvation is not only a little selfish just like Sheldon’s view of life, but falls short of the true promise of God and acknowledgement that “I”, singular, do not exist in a vacuum. That each of us cannot survive without each other and without the ecological systems in our world.
Christ’s redemption of the world isn’t so much about individual sin accounting and the justification of our personal balance sheets with God, but rather an acute action of grace and love for the whole world... Like the whole balanced relationship of human, grass, bees, air, and rain.
So who is the “each other” that we should love? Everyone and everything in our interconnected life on planet Earth. We need each other. And just as Jesus reminds us yet again, let us love in action and truth, we are called out into the world to to care for and fulfill this commandment.
Life is far more vast and complicated than just an individual life… and so is theology and God’s relationship with God’s creation. The whole thing. So let us expand our understanding of God’s love and try our darndest to love with this truth and action for the sake of the world. Amen.