Our first program day was Monday. We discussed and heard about earth ethics, and it was a completely and totally overwhelming discussion. However, in BayUP, our goal is to crystallize the information we learn about the world and what it looks like to follow God in all of it. Now, as you are probably thinking, many of us assumed that we would be learning about the environment and how it is so messed up. We did, but through a biblical perspective that I hadn’t realized before. In today’s economic climate, we are faced with a job market that demands more from us than we can offer. It rewards us for working overtime and sleeping less; essentially running our bodies and souls ragged. The Bible regards human beings as creatures of the Earth, just as animals are. In Western culture, rarely do we talk about our biblical “creatureliness”.
In Genesis, man was created from the dust of the earth, and thus declaring every human being an equal member. And just like the creatures of the Earth, we have earthly limitations. As much as we try and avoid it, we need rest, and have a significant lack of control over our lives. I mean, on the 7th day of creation, God himself rests! And he wants us to model that. Most people don’t think about themselves in this way until their bodies are deteriorating and their friendships are jeopardized. Are you one of those people who need to schedule their friendships? I know I am, and something is wrong with this picture! We were encouraged to surround ourselves with nature when possible, for we tend to have a difficult time remembering that we are creatures unless we are surrounded by God’s inspiring creation.
But is it more than just getting more sleep and going on a hike? During a Bible study of ours, we focused on Isaiah 58, and how God means for us to treat fasting and taking Sabbath. We should regularly be investing in a time of rest in order to reconnect to God and to our environment, but what I have realized is that I oftentimes regard fasting and Sabbath (If I make time for it at all) as a time to inwardly focus. Our spiritual habits are often inward-focused. But, as the Lord beautifully states in Isaiah 58:6-7, fasting is a time to not sit and wait for God to speak to us during our fast, but to actively serve the poor and needy, treating them with as much love as if they were our own flesh and blood. It is here that God comes near to us and gives us joy in our sacrifice.
But before we can go out and tackle the large conflicts of the world, we must understand ourselves and how we are interconnected with the rest of the world.
On a larger scale, the system is messed up. We are mistreating the environment instead of living alongside it. It is quite overwhelming to think about all of the environmental degradation going on, and how so much must happen in order for it to be corrected. However we have the hope of God’s restoration with us as well as the knowledge that helping the environment is a testament to God. It’s about stewarding and protecting of course, but by doing this, we are valuing God‘s creation through stewarding and protecting the environment. So, the next time that I am overwhelmed by the environmental crises we face, I will remember this as a way to maintain hope and continue to protect.
As our speaker stated, a necessary component of any holistic strategy involves the environment. We have so much privilege in our lives, and we can absolutely use it for lobbying. We can vote with our purchases, and although it may cost more, buy more products that do not contribute to the exploitation of people or the environment around the globe. (I mean, Wal-Mart entered the organic field because money runs the system. As Wal-Mart’s chief dairy purchaser noted in the documentary Food Inc., “If it’s clear the consumer wants it, it’s really easy to get behind it.”). We can live simply, buy less, and eat locally. This was a completely overwhelming discussion, however what we are meant to get out of it is that during BayUP, we are meant to be crystallizing information about what is happening in the world and what it looks like to follow God in all of it.
Sabbath, which we oftentimes skew as well, is more important than we realize. We learned of a structure we can use to both cherish and utilize the Sabbath time we allot to ourselves – to experience reflection, reaffirmation, and definition. During reflection, we can evaluate our week, repent of our sins, and draw meaning out of events that happened and our interactions with others. During reaffirmation, we can return to scripture, focusing on the greatness of the truth that is declared throughout it. We oftentimes find scripture as a necessary chore, yet being able to find hope in God’s sovereignty is always restoring. Lastly, during definition we can ask God to define our mission for the next week, and focus on areas of growth and being held accountable for it by others.