There are a few verses in the Bible that we all know by heart. When someone says, ‘In the Beginning …’ most of us know to immediately finish the sentence, ‘… God made the Heavens and the Earth.’ There is so much, and more, in that first verse of Genesis 1 that has occupied philosophers, theologians and scientists for thousands of years.
It is Good
God makes the world and He calls it good. He is pleased with what He made, and He loves His Creation. Jesus reminds us that we are more blessed to give than to receive and the best way to love is to give. God gives the most and no one can out give God.
Laying down our lives...
To lay down your life for your friends is the greatest act of love and giving.
The Gospel of John says, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only son… for God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Him.’ Note here that it’s not just that He loved the people on the world. God does indeed love the people and whoever believes in Him is not condemned. Jesus is most definitely all about saving people. Note though, that God also actually loved ‘the world’ and He still does. And why not, He created it, He called it good so it must be good. He loves His Creation and it is worth redeeming.
How does Man fit into the Picture?
God loves both the World and Man. Rabbinical commentaries on Genesis note that God made the World and wanted to give the world to Man. Man was to be the final inheritor of the World. God wanted to bless Man with the World and to dwell with him and walk with him in the cool of the evening. Jesus says in Matthew 5 that the meek inherit the Earth. Note that we don’t inherit Heaven, we inherit the Earth. Too often in Christianity, we restrict our focus on getting into Heaven. Yet Jesus tells us that our final destination is actually Earth. Eventually, we see in the Revelation to John, the heavenly Jerusalem takes its place on the Earth and Man will dwell with God in the world as was originally intended.
The Forbidden Fruit
When Adam ate the forbidden fruit, the world was cursed. Adam was cursed, as was Eve and the snake and so was the world. As it is written, ‘Cursed is the ground’. Yet it was not the world’s fault that Adam ate the fruit and yet it received a curse because of the actions of Man. In Jewish tradition the earth is alive. Let’s be clear, the earth is not a god, but like the animals are alive, the World itself is also alive. Paul reminds us that the earth itself is groaning for its redemption. This verse in the New Testament makes no sense if Creation is purely inanimate. Accordingly then, the world is also looking forward to the Messiah as much as Man is. It is as if the voice of the earth says to Man, ‘You like the colours of my flowers now? Well, you wait till you see colour when the Messiah is here! You like the taste of my fruit now? Well, you wait till you taste fruit when the Messiah is here!’ The world isn’t destroyed with the return of the Messiah, it is renewed and prepared for the Messiah to rule and reign. There is a difference between destruction and renewal.
Consequences of Our Actions
According to Jewish tradition, the earth is quite conscious of sin and reacts to the sin on top of it. We read in Leviticus 18 vs 24-28 that God warns His people (and us) that if they continue to sin/defile the land, the very ground itself will vomit them out. Note that the text says that God won’t do the vomiting, the earth will. The ground, or the World, is reacting to the behaviour of Man on top of it. We can see that happen throughout human history. War, devastation and lack of love affect the environment. There is a change in the very ecosystem. When we fight and tear each other apart, like in Syria, or behave with the madness and cruelness of the dictator of Zimbabwe when love ceases to be shown among men and grows cold. Then often we see the result, that the earth stops producing food, the rain decreases and the animals leave. No one harvests the ground, digs wells or tends the earth. The ground becomes barren with the ecosystem in ruins. In essence, the earth attempts to get the human defilers away from it. Indeed humans do flee and become a torrent of refugees leaving the devastation behind them. We have no one to blame but ourselves for this.
Fulfilling our Calling
Conversely, when we fulfil the command of the Messiah to love as He has loved, when we dominate the earth with our joy and peace instead of pain and hatred, when we apply ourselves to working the earth and healing the land, we find the earth fruitful and are blessed by its abundance. Part of the call of our discipleship is faithful stewardship over Creation. The world that God loves reacts to our behaviour. God made the World and He so loved the World. As followers of Jesus, we should love the World as He does, for this is our inheritance.
"The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it."
Ready for further study? Return to the Resources page.