Today at Gateway Church in Austin, we concluded a series called “Big Questions” which was a continuation of our Q&A Sunday. Bruce Gilson, the South campus pastor, shared at the South campus. Here are some of the thoughts he shared:
“When it comes time to face an epic challenge, too often we freak out and start yelling at each other. Because we feel so powerless, it makes us feel good to get angry at the other side. What’s happened to this country? We haven’t been this politically polarized with hate-filled rhetoric since the months leading up to the Civil War. Then it was the Blue and the Gray. Now it’s blue and red states. I’m not saying you shouldn’t fight for what’s right. But do we want political hate in the church? Is this the religion we want?
James 1:26-27 – ‘Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’
James says, sometimes you have to stop talking because your words aren’t doing anyone any good. Real religion is not rhetoric. It is caring for widows and orphans. It’s being part of the solution, not droning on and on about the problem.
James 2:14-17 – ‘What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.’
Our faith was never supposed to be about good intentions or political posturing. It boils down to action. We stand in a long line of Christian activists, people who saw a need, trusted God, and got in the game.
During the Roman empire, Christian activists put an end to the common practice of infanticide and the slaughter innocents in the Coliseum. They charged into the urban desolation during the two centuries of plague, and cared for the sick and dying, and innovated medicine and sanitation to stop the pandemic in its tracks. Christians like Anselm and Aquinas preserved literacy in the Dark Ages. Deeply devoted Christians like Copernicus, Kepler, Pascal helped form the foundations of scientific thought. William and Catherine Booth adopted the plight of the poor in inner city London and founded the Salvation Army. Rembrandt, John Donne, and Fyodor Dostoevsky used their art to call the world to compassion. Elizabeth Fry reformed prisons. Schweitzer built hospitals in Africa. Susan B. Anthony’s faith motivated her crusade for women to vote. William Wilberforce stood firm in his faith like a rock and brought down the British system of slavery. Harriet Tubman and Sojurner Truth believed they were called by God to end oppression here. All of these lived their faith, made their mark, went on to be with the Lord, and now they pass their legacy of faith-based activism to you.
Why bother? Why bother? Because when God convicts you, when he lays a burden on your heart, he will empower you to do more than you can possibly imagine.
So, should Christians be green? Could God use us to save the planet and conserve resources?
The theology of care for God’s creation is throughout Scripture, and it rests in the middle of a tension between two seemingly contradictory truths:
1. Humans are more important than nature (Genesis 1:26-27). God crafted humanity as the pinnacle of creation. Men and women have been given authority over every living thing (Genesis 9:3). God says, ‘I made this for you. Enjoy it. Cultivate it. But take care of it in a righteous way.’
2. People are accountable for the protection of then environment. Just because you are set above creation doesn’t mean you can go pollute a river, tear down a rain forest in the name of progress, or walk on the grass on the campus of Texas A&M University.
Genesis 9:28 – ‘Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature.’ The phrase ‘rule over’ is the ancient word radah, which means ‘take charge as the representative of someone else.’ This is not our world, we are God’s representatives in taking care of it. Creation needs to be cared for by someone strong and wise. Someone with tenderness, an eye for beauty, someone with great ingenuity. God says, it belongs to me, but I’m not the one responsible for it.
Are we doing good things with nature in our own little space?
God draws people, he pushes people, he cajoles them, by giving them a sense that something is lacking so that they’ll go out and take a risk. God knows it takes a little frustration to get you to move. He’s keenly aware that the world’s problems get us off the proverbial couch. Sometimes the cause is his way of saying, ‘You’re stagnate. It’s time to change. I have work for you to do.’”
To listen or watch Ted Beasley share on this topic or the other messages in this series, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.