I was raised in the church my whole life and the gospel reached my heart when I was in 6th grade. In college, I have been a part of multiple campus ministries, including Reformed University Fellowship. This ministry has taught me, loved me, and challenged me, and I’m forever grateful for it.
But something I’ve noticed is that for some reason, Christians tend to think that climate change isn’t an issue, or that it doesn’t really matter. I think it does, and here’s an open letter to the ministry that I love.
Dear UGA RUF,
I’m not sure if y’all have noticed, but there have been some changes going on in the world around us. Fall is quickly approaching, bringing us relief from another Georgia summer, and we get to witness the vivid beauty of the morphing leaves and enjoy each other’s company beside a fire or sipping a pumpkin spice latte. There have also been some changes on a larger scale, like our summers being hotter and wetter than ever before. Before high school and college, I don’t ever remember it raining so much during the summer. It also seems like every month there’s a new hurricane or tornado that’s headed our way or is close enough to us to bring wind, storms, and rain. This is no coincidence, these are signs that our climate is changing. I see it, and I know you see it too when every other week when we get to Large Group, someone making the announcements makes a comment on the strange weather.
I know it’s easy to enjoy God’s creation when the leaves are bright red and orange, or when we go to Fall Conference and hike Mt Yonah and see the breathtaking view. Or at Winter Retreat when we go to Ridge Haven and get to witness incredible sunsets that give way to a blanket weaved from millions of stars that were each placed by the God we know loves us.
It’s also easy to love our best friends and those we are closest to, but we are called to love every person because we are all made in the image of God.
What if we are also supposed to love every piece of creation?
God made nature before he made humans, but he only said it was good when we were together. Adam and Eve were created to commune with God and the garden with an intimacy we can’t understand because of the distortion of sin. They were dependent on God for provision which came directly through the fruits of the garden. This was the way God intended for us to live: in perfect harmony with each other, and with nature. Unfortunately, the fall instilled in us the idea that we exist apart from nature. His plan for perfection includes us loving and living as a part of the environment.
In Matthew 22, Jesus tells us that the two greatest commandments are to love God and love your neighbor, and we know that “neighbor” doesn’t just mean the people who live next to you, it means everyone. We are called to love the whole world. But what if it also means nature? We do live next to it. We live all around it, it surrounds us and permeates our lives in every aspect. Don’t the birds, the streams, and the trees also count as our neighbors?
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Look at the flowers in the field. See how they grow. They don’t make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that not even Solomon with his riches was not dressed as beautifully as one of these flowers” (Matthew 6:29-30). So as Christians pursuing sanctification and seeking to make our hearts look like God’s heart, shouldn’t we also love the flowers and the birds?
But what does this mean for us?
We’re college students, living in this town for a few years, then moving on to whatever is in store next. Ice caps are melting, there’s a mass of trash bigger than Texas floating in the ocean, and oil companies are tearing through land and destroying ecosystems for their own profit. I know it seems pointless to care about your actions when there are much bigger problems out there than whether or not you recycle. But let me remind you, God called Moses who had a stutter, David who was a shepherd, Rahab who was a prostitute, and so many others who felt small and unqualified and didn’t believe that they were good enough for God to use them. When in fact it is these people who God draws near to and loves to use for his kingdom. We are just college students, but this doesn’t disqualify us from taking action, it qualifies us to be dependent on God’s plan and guidance.
Now you might be wondering what it would look like for you to care about creation as God does. To me, a large part of loving the earth is being aware of what’s happening. To me, this means educating yourself on things like climate change, oil pipelines, and deforestation, and then sharing what you learn and talking about it with your friends. God loves to bring his people out of the darkness, and bringing these issues to light and exposing them helps bring God’s light to the earth. Each of us once lived in darkness and our hearts were dead, but now our hearts are alive and beating with the Holy Spirit, let this drive us to care deeply about the things that God cares about.
We are just college students, but we also have habits and needs that result in spending money, supporting companies that thrive on pollution including Shein, Coca-Cola, and Exxon Mobil. Buying their products directly allows these large companies that do make huge differences in waste dumping to continue their ways. You are one person, but if we as a community of college students and believers abstain from supporting these giant polluters, then you can make far more of an impact than you think.
We also all know how important fellowship with one another is.
Whether you go get coffee with a friend or intern, host a dinner for freshmen or transfers, or go to lunch after church with your community group. We find that cultivating a community often revolves around food. Maybe the next time you want to grab coffee with Ben, Caysie, Grace, or Jeremiah, instead of getting Starbucks to go and then throwing the cup away, go somewhere where you can sit down with a mug that will be washed and used again. Or for lunch, try going to a farm-to-table restaurant. You could try Maepole, a restaurant that composts and recycles all of their waste and containers-and it’s within walking distance from Good Shepherd.
For several summers during my high school and college years, I worked at a summer camp called God’s Farm in Temple, Ga. God’s Farm is a nonprofit camp that is made for inner-city and underprivileged kids from the Atlanta area and we get to teach them activities like fishing, rope courses, archery, and canoeing.
They get to see and feed animals that they haven’t seen in real life before including donkeys, pigs, goats, and alpacas. More importantly, we teach them gardening and sustainable agricultural practices that they can take back home with them. At every activity, we tell Bible stories and lead studies that give the kids an opportunity to experience God’s love and his creation in a way they have never been able to before.
Teaching kids that God loves them unconditionally and gave them this beautiful earth has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to steward the earth well.
The first job given to humans by God was to steward the garden, to take care of it. But over time we lost sight of this and have forgotten that God also loves his creation. It can seem overwhelming as college students, but there are more ways than you think to advocate for and protect the environment. You can spread awareness, support sustainable businesses and create your own habits, or spend your time with organizations like God’s Farm. Each of these are extremely valuable ways to love creation the same way that the Creator does.
Ben says this every week, RUF is a place where we meet you where you are, but we don’t leave you stuck there. Let’s unstick ourselves and move towards the Kingdom.