November 1, 1989
These brisk fall mornings are wonderfully invigorating walking weather. Head up, chest out, deep breaths of fresh air, the warm sun shining on my face -- a great way to start the day!
But there is a problem. Something ruins the cool air and hides the sun. Looking straight ahead is often difficult, my stride broken; sometimes I come home with a sore throat and dirty shoes.
But I can’t do anything about it. At least that’s my first thought. After all, what would people think if some stranger turned on a hose and rinsed off their sidewalk? How would folks like it if I picked up the newspapers and scooped up the dog-do from their front boulevard? And what would the companies whose processes spew brown stuff into the air think if I walked in their workplace and pushed their stop button? Getting involved, at least at that level, might get me in trouble.
However, the more widespread pollution becomes, the more inadequate individuals feel to control it. Some will say it’s a problem of big business. If the mega-corporations don’t do their part, what good will it do to put my trash in a colored box? It’s just a drop in the bucket. Even if I keep my personal space clean, sooner or later industry or just the litterbugs all about will close in and mess it up anyway. So why bother?
On the other hand, I could jump on the conservation bandwagon and fervently preach green products and recycling. I could go door to door and give out trash bags and lectures. I could organize and lobby and demonstrate. I could write letters to local and federal legislators. It might help — a little. In fact, I am committed to doing my part.
However, from examining my own heart, I know that behind every act of pollution is a self-centered thought. It expresses itself in excuses, laziness or a demand for personal rights. “It’s too far to the nearest trash can.” “No one else is picking up and cleaning up.” “This is my yard -- I can let trash accumulate in it if I want to.”
The whole problem with self-centeredness is that the Bible calls it sin. This inner disposition asserts, “I will do what I want, regardless of who it effects or what God says” and it is capable of far more harm than leaving candy bars in public places.
God told mankind to take dominion of the earth, not exploit it and leave it in ruins. The word ‘dominion’ means to rule — and the Bible is filled with examples and commands of what God intended regarding ruling.
But back to the root problem, if we want our planet cleaned up, wouldn’t it make sense to deal with sin first, then its fruit, one of which is pollution? It would, but it’s not that easy.
Jesus Christ came to offer forgiveness for sin, power to say no to it, and a sure hope of some day being rid of it, but in spite of all He did, we still are not promised heaven on earth. For one thing, not everyone responds to the offer Christ made. They don’t want Him.
As for those who do, we soon find we don’t change as quickly and completely as we would like to. What folly to think we can get our neighbors to clean up on the outside when we know the problem starts on the inside — and also know how horrendous that battle can be.
God will hold us accountable as individuals and nations for what we do in response to His commands, and although pollution is a dirty word not found in Scripture, its roots are there, along with God’s provision. In the meantime, Romans 8 says that all of creation groans along with His people, waiting for the complete redemption He has promised. Someday there will be complete delivery from the corruption of sin and entrance into eternal life where there is “nothing that defiles” both inside and out.
In the meantime, this old planet still could use a good spring-cleaning.