Sunday August 28, 2022 | Greg Boyd
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
God called all people to care for his land and animals as his stewards. This is a basic mandate that was part of the creation narrative.
Taking care of the earth and the animal kingdom is to be a big deal for God’s people because, according to the Bible, taking good care of the earth and animal kingdom is a big deal for God. Humans were placed on earth to be the loving caretakers of the earth, which is God’s property, and the animal kingdom, which the Bible consistently portrays as God’s beloved pets.
Half of the first mandate God gave to humans in the focus scripture, is about creation. We are to “subdue” and “have dominion” over the earth and animal kingdom. To “subdue” means to subjugate, to bring under your control. To “have dominion” simply means “to rule.” The earth and animal kingdom are the dome over which humans are to reign under God’s authority. Godly rulership as God intends it is the exact opposite of dominating creation for the sake of self-interest, as though the only value the earth and animals have is the value that humans give them based on how they benefit us.
The Apostle Paul tells us what godly dominion looks like:
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God….but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. — I Corinthians 1:18, 24
God rules with the power and wisdom of self-sacrificial love. We rule in God’s way by taking responsibility for the well-being of another and sacrificing whatever needs to be sacrificed to support the flourishing of another. By the means of the cross, God is reconciling all things on earth and in heaven. Jesus died to reconcile and transform humans. He also died to reconcile and transform the earth and the animal kingdom.
Since God rules the world and God vanquishes evil by means of self-sacrificial love, that is how God always intended humans to rule the earth and the animal kingdom. We are created to share God’s love for his creation and therefore are commissioned to take good care of the portion of the creation he has entrusted to us.
The feelings a pet owner has toward their pet is the way that God feels about the earth and all animals. God has entrusted us with this beloved property and his pets to share His love for creation and to take responsibility for its well-being. As we look around what is going on in creation, it is obvious that humans are not doing very well with this responsibility. Climate change, overwhelming garbage and abuse of animals is just part of the norm today.
This teaching on loving creation relates to the topic of God’s judgment. In last week’s sermon we saw that God brings judgment by allowing people to be punished by their own sin. In Habakkuk 2:16-18, we read “The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and your destruction of animals will terrify you.”
God’s judgment comes by being overwhelmed by our own violence and by being terrified by our own destruction of animals. Our violence toward animals as well as to the earth will sooner or later ricochet back on our heads. The troubles that humans are causing the earth will actually rebound back upon us, which is an organic form of judgment.
Therefore, loving God’s creation is not ancillary or extra-curricular to the Kingdom. It is foundational because we are to be the type of people who are formed to love what God loves.