The Social Principles begins just like creation begins – with the Natural World, the world we all live in, wake up to, where we run in parks, and sail on boats across rivers, streams, and even oceans.
It all belongs to God, the being which created it. From water to plants and even those really annoying insects that are present in this world. Let’s begin by looking at what introductory remarks for the Natural World are, found in paragraph 160 in the United Methodist Church Book of Discipline:
All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect. Economic, political, social, and technological developments have increased our human numbers, and lengthened and enriched our lives. However, these developments have led to regional defoliation, dramatic extinction of species, massive human suffering, overpopulation, and misuse and over-consumption of natural and nonrenewable resources, particularly by industrialized societies. This continued course of action jeopardizes the natural heritage that God has entrusted to all generations. Therefore, let us recognize the responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation.
All of creation belongs to God and is a beautiful expression of God’s creative ability in creation. We could spend years and years analyzing the whole of creation and we would still learn new and amazing things about God’s creativity. The world belongs to God, but there is also ownership for the world in ourselves. Let’s look at scripture to see what this means.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.” Then God said, “I now give to you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds within it. These will be your food. To all wildlife, to all the birds of the sky, and to everything crawling on the ground – to everything that breathes – I give all the green grasses for food.” And that’s what happened. God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good.
The Care of Creation is an important task that God has given us and in the John Wesley Study Guide there is this note about the Care of Creation:
“There are three dimensions to humanity’s creation in the image of God, according to John Wesley: the natural image, the political image, and the moral image. The political image refers to humanity’s calling to care for the earth and the other creatures that inhabit it. Just as God is Ruler over all creation, so humanity is caretaker and “governor” of this world (Sermon 45: “The New Birth,”). Humanity is to be “the channel of conveyance: of the blessings of God to our fellow creatures. For this task God equips humanity with the natural image, composed of “reason,” “will,” and “freedom” (Sermon 60: The General Deliverance), abilities needed for the care of the earth. But human disobedience distorts our reason, will, and freedom, so that we exploit the earth for selfish purposes, with little thought for future generations or the well-being of other creatures. This is why one of Wesley’s favorite descriptions of salvation is “the renewal of our souls in the image of God,” recovering the calling for which we were created.
We are all called in many different ways, but the first way that all humanity is called is the ability to be a caretaker. We are called to be the “channel of conveyance” of the blessings of God to our fellow creatures. We are to be the conduit through which God blesses the world, but humanity is flawed and selfish and sometimes we use the world around us for our own concern and not for Gods. Remember we are called to be a conduit of blessings the world. We are not here on our own accord, but so that all may be connected to their creator and to recover the calling for which we were created.
So, how do we teach our youth this lesson?
- Clean Up – I don’t know about you, but when I have a youth gathering our youth area is just trashed. There are plates and cups everywhere, the tables are dirty, and it’s really sad looking – if you can relate to this, what can we do? Well we could yell at our kids to clean up their mess; pretty much guaranteed to not work. We could appoint certain leaders of the youth to tell other youth, “Hey, we need to take care of this.” Teaching youth to take care of their own mess at a youth gathering could very well impact what they do at home.
- Pick up trash around your church – Choose one night of a youth gathering at your church to guide your youth around the property, picking up trash as they go. What does it say about us if we don’t take care of our local church? That’s not going to change unless someone begins to care. Right?
- Participate in a local food pantry – When God says to care of creation, sometimes that means helping out a food pantry, hanging clothes at a goodwill store, or simply listening to a friend who is having a rough go of it. All of these are ways to care for creation.
- THANK MOM AND DAD – Invite all the parents of your youth for a dinner at the church. This is not a fundraising dinner; this is a thank you dinner for the youth parents. Student servers, student speakers – the works. Have an event that is all about youth thanking their parents for who they are, for providing for them, but overall for loving them always. This is an awesome expression of caring for creation.
The truth is there are so many options out there for how you can take care of the natural world. One last thing I want to leave with you: God created all of this world and everything in it; God created you and me, and even died on the cross so that we could be eternally connected. All God wants is to be connected to humanity, and humanity is hurting and desperate for connection with God. We need God more than we need anything else in all of creation. The way we take care of ourselves, others, and the communities around us are a testament to who God is. So let’s be the caretakers that God has called us to be.
Let’s be conduits of Gods love and grace.