Study Guide: As Humans Go, So Goes the Earth

Sunday September 4, 2022 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

There is a direct, organic connection between how humans live in love and the well-being of creation. The calamity experienced at the hands of the environment is a natural result of human failure to care for it as God intended.

Extended Summary:

The mission of our life can be summed up in the four directions of love: love God, ourselves, others and creation. The extent that we love God is the extent that we will naturally love ourselves, love our neighbor and care for the earth and all animals.

Regarding the last of these four loves, it is important to see that there is a connection between humans and creation that goes deeper than a divine mandate. God’s mandate is grounded in the reality of how God made the world. The well-being of the earth is affected by the well-being of humans and vice versa. To the degree that humans fail to love in all four directions, both humans and the earth will suffer.

This organic connectedness between humans and nature is found in the very first biblical story about humans in Genesis 3:17-19. Our separation from God had negative implications for the planet we were entrusted to take care of. The earth is less  cooperative which means that humans have to toil to get it to produce food and it grows thorns and thistles and other potentially harmful things. Insofar as the Creator gave us the ability to reject the way he designed creation, negative events experienced in creation are to be viewed as judgments of God.

We also see this connection in Hosea 4:1-3 and Jeremiah 24-26. Hosea depicts the land drying up and people and animals being “swept away” as a  natural consequence of humans rebelling against God. Our refusal to love God, ourselves, all others and God’s creation eventually recoils back on our heads. In the Jeremiah passage, we read how there is a natural consequence of the judgment the Israelites had brought on themselves. Creation is out of whack. There is no life around, crops had all dried up, wildlife had scattered and all was reduced to an utterly barren land. There was “waste and void.” The Hebrew phrase that is translated “waste and void” is the same phrase used to describe the chaotic state of the world prior to the Genesis 1 creation story. God created the world by imposing order on chaos. When Jeremiah says the judged land was “waste and void,” he is saying this judgment was about the boundaries of creation being overturned and this parcel of land being reduced to something like the chaos that preceded creation.

The organic relationship between humans, the earth and the animal kingdom is demonstrated in the fact that our corruption leads to the corruption of the environment. Therefore, we end up suffering at the hands of the environment we were meant to take responsibility for.

Reflection Questions: