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Faith environment and mission

I’ve always loved the ocean.

I became a Christian when I was about 15.

It’s taken me almost 10 years to be able to understand and articulate how my love for God and my love for the environment go hand in hand.

I always knew they went together. I just couldn’t put words to it. Part of what made it difficult was that I didn’t see many other Christians around me taking the environment seriously. I started to make sense of this attitude when I moved to Tasmania to study Marine Science and Conservation. In order to do this I left a role in youth ministry. A lot of people, myself included, lamented that I would be leaving a ministry that I loved and that God has gifted me in. Why would I leave such an important role, discipling youth and bringing young people to Jesus, in order to go and save some fish?!

I now realise that many of these faithful Christians had the viewpoint (perhaps without even realising it) that creation is a temporary thing and there aren’t really eternal outcomes for it. This is not a criticism of them – I had the same understanding. I’m so grateful for my time in Tasmania. There, I had the opportunity to explore and come to an understanding that I believe is much more whole and much more grounded in God’s Word.

Matter matters. This statement blew me away! Matter matters. Have you ever asked why Jesus was resurrected in a physical form? Why not simply in a spirit form? Well, it’s because the physical is important. God makes a huge statement in the resurrection of Jesus that he cares about the physical. Matter matters. This statement has huge implications for ALL that God has created. Though we as humans are unique because we are made in the image and likeness of God, he has still conferred value on everything he has created.

Fast forward a few years and I started working at a mission agency. Once again I was stuck as to how my love for people, my passion for God’s mission and the environment could go together. I faced questions like: does caring for the environment have any relevance to mission? I‘ve slowly realised God’s mission is much bigger than I first thought. The question isn’t if these things are relevant, but how.

We also need to ask other important questions. How does the way we relate to the environment and use its resources affect the people and communities we long to see transformed by encountering Jesus?

Research shows that many commercial fisheries are currently not managed sustainably[1]. A large portion of the world’s poorest people rely on fishing as a form of employment, food security and nutrition. So suddenly the question about how much we should care about fish and the oceans becomes a question about how much we should care about the people who rely on these fish.

We all live in the context of relationships – with each other, with God, with ourselves and the world we live in. Sin breaks and distorts these relationships. Through Jesus Christ, reconciliation and redemption restores these relationships. Caring for creation should be life giving, drawing us closer to the Creator and helping us to practically and biblically love our neighbour. It’s all about restoration of right relationships. And isn’t that what God’s mission is?

Interservers are helping Central Asian communities build solar-heated, earthquake-resistant houses using local materials. They’re designing low-cost pumps to irrigate farmland in dry conditions. In South East Asia, Interserve business owners invited their staff out of the city to enjoy the rainforests and waterfalls for a day. For some Interservers, issues of environmental sustainability are core to their professional service. Others integrate these practices into their everyday life. Together, we’re all learning how to integrate our care for creation into wholistic mission… so that we can see lives and communities transformed.

Katherine is a mission mobiliser for Interserve. She has an Honours degree in Marine Conservation and Resource Sustainability, a Graduate Diploma in Divinity and loves to chat about mission and the environment! Get in touch at katherine@interserve.org.au

[1] The state of world fisheries and aquaculture. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2018. Accessed via www.fao.org/3/i9540en/i9540en.pdf