As a compassionate people, we see the evils of the world: the forces at work that destroy and harm. In the past, this has led people to believe that the physical world was inherently bad and the spiritual world was good. But God is clear here, creation is good, it’s purpose was for good. There might be darkness and brokenness; it might be in a state where goodness is diminished, but creation is essentially good and will be returned to its full goodness in the new heaven and earth.
Imagine you have a neighbour with a beautiful large garden—it’s full of blooming flowers, blossoming trees and all kinds of wildlife. Your neighbour says, ‘You can enjoy my garden, but look after it.’ You enjoy it, but you decide that you want to take flowers home, so you begin digging them up, you don’t need them all, but you continue—maybe you can sell some to other neighbours. You decide you want to extend your home, so you use wood from the trees. Then you need to warm every room, so you use wood for fires: far too much, but at least the whole house is warm. The sun’s shining brightly, so you head to the garden to enjoy it, but you get there and realise it’s empty: there is no beauty left, there is no wildlife, you took too much and didn’t look after it through sustainable living. We have a beautiful garden to enjoy and use, it’s God’s garden of the earth. But it’s also our responsibility to look after it, so we can keep on enjoying it.
When I was teaching, I felt like I never had a day off. It was hard to set boundaries to my work—and even if I did, it was hard to switch off. There was always something to do and something my mind was thinking about. It took me a while, but I’ve realised how important rest is: so important that it’s modelled by God taking a day off. The Sabbath set Ancient Israel apart from the culture around them, a culture which often meant working long days throughout the week. Christians have tried to emulate this by having the Lord’s day as a day of rest (Sunday, of course). But it got stuck in debates about whether you could play sport or buy a newspaper on a Sunday. 21st century life has hit the other extreme, pushing for a 24 hour culture. Of course, perhaps at the moment, some of us have had an enforced Sabbath as we’ve gone through lockdown and had to take a step back. Yet, there is a balance: it is important to stop, to rest, to spend quality time with family and loved ones and to take time out to meet with God. Let’s hope we find a new balance.
With all the wonders of creation that God has made—the vast universe, the sun, the moon, the stars—how is it that we are held in special regard, even when we get so much wrong. Hebrews shows us that Jesus ‘for a little while was made lower than the angels.’ Then he was crowned with glory and honour through his suffering and death. Jesus, who governs this world, invites us to join with him as we serve and live in his reign.
(2 Corinthians 13:11)
Paul had a concern for the unity of his congregations. He challenged them to work through their issues, emphasising their need to live in peace with one another, so the world would see the glory of Christ. Yet, saying this, Paul wasn’t afraid to disagree—you only have to read his letters to see the issues he disagreed with Peter on. There is a time and place to disagree, but there is also a call to live in harmony.
What did Jesus command? Ultimately to love God and to love our neighbour. We are called first and foremost to be disciples that show we belong to Jesus through our love for one another. This must be our foundation, a community built on the love of God, in Christ Jesus, through the Holy Spirit.