Last week, we have been sailing on the Dutch IJsselmeer and the Wadden Sea. We enjoyed the panoramic views with beautiful cloud formations. Birds could be seen everywhere, looking for fish or busy keeping an eye on their children. The moon rose full and bright orange when we anchored at the Lorenz locks. The weather was mostly warm and sunny but on the last day we experienced “real IJsselmeer sailing” (according to Freddy), with rain and high waves.
Living at sea, we strongly felt that we were only guests in the natural environment. In a way, this is true for the whole of mankind. We live on this planet for a short while, and we can ask ourselves how we leave the campsite behind after we pack up our tent and move on. The Bible says that humans have a special position within creation. Our task is to manage the earth. How can we do that the right way?
As Christians, we are followers of Jesus. He shows how God gives shape to his kingdom: “I am among you as one who serves”. He healed the sick, blessed the children and gave food to thousands of people. Jesus teaches us to care for the weak. He did not bring an explicit message about caring for the earth. This was perhaps not necessary because the society in which he lived did not manipulate the natural environment to the extent to which we do.
Today, we live in a society that is built on the exploitation of animals and the depletion of natural resources. We can apply the serving attitude of Jesus to our relationship with nature. An example is the papal encyclical Laudato Si.
Following Jesus can help us to serve the wellbeing of our fellow human beings and the rest of creation. Everyone makes their own considerations when it comes to this. Personally, I am moved by the suffering of animals in intensive farming and I believe that God’s heart also goes out to them: “For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help”.
Andrew Linzey puts it as follows:
If the omnipotence and power of God is properly expressed in the form of katabasis, humility and self-sacrifice, why should this model not properly extend to our relations with creation as a whole and animals in particular?
Food for thought, perhaps, for these last days of the summer holidays. I am traveling back home tomorrow, to go back to work next week. One day left to enjoy/survive the heat… ;-)
- Bible: Luke 22: 27, Psalm 72: 12. See also: Philippians 5–8.
- Andrew Linzey (1996) Animal Theology