THIS month representatives of many nations are meeting in Brazil for a major conference on the environment. Various nations have already been conferring for months, and their hope is that this June gathering will cap their efforts with the passage of some major agreements.
Such a unified effort at working together toward saving and restoring the earth is heartening, even though much remains to be done. Each of us can support these progressive steps through activities that preserve and nurture our environment and also through our prayers.
Prayer has value on the environmental scene because it turns us to God, who, the Bible tells us, is the Father and Mother of man and of all creation. In fact, in the book of Genesis the Bible says "God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.
When we look at the number of polluted rivers, overflowing dumps, and hazardous waste sites human activity has generated, however, it is hard to believe that a totally pure creation could ever have existed--or that our polluted world can be cleansed. The spiritual perfection of the creation described in Genesis seems very far away indeed.
Yet the Bible is full of messages of hope for our time, and among them is this passage from Joel. He says, "Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things. He goes on to say of God, "I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.
One requirement for this restoration is that the people regain their obedience to God. To me, this means being willing to live spiritually, to give up the destructive behaviors that not only would spoil our environment but would also wreck our individual lives. These may have many aspects, but the one underlying mistake is the belief that creation, including man, is essentially material and finite. From such a standpoint, it would almost be logical to assume each of us would scratch and scrape, would fig ht to get his or her little piece of the finite--and diminishing--pie. Even if our environment suffers the consequences.
Such a hopeless view represents a virtual opposite of the spiritual creation revealed in the Bible. The prophets give us many promises from God of how He will restore good to us as we discover more of His law and His government. And Christ Jesus specifically taught how we can use these divine laws literally to heal ourselves and our fellow humans. These laws will also bring healing to the states of thought that lead to the world's environmental problems.
We can begin turning to God's law by recognizing our own true, spiritual identity as the children of God. What this means in practical terms is that because we are actually meant to express God's nature--which is totally good, pure, loving, intelligent, perfect--our actions need to conform to what we understand of man's genuine identity.
In her writings, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, includes many statements about this spiritual identity of man, God's idea. One that I have found very useful is in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She writes, "Man is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique. Humanly, we may feel as far away from this outlook as our world is from the pristine reality of creation that the initial chapter of Genesis shows us. But if we are to resolve environmental
problems, our efforts need to be directed toward expressing more spirituality. Why? Because spiritual qualities such as love, intelligence, and goodness are the "stuff of which true creation is made. At the moment, spiritual reality may seem to be buried under layers of the selfishness, greed, impurity, stupidity, and blindness that are the underlying causes of the environmental crisis facing humanity.
But we strip those layers away as we examine ourselves and look for the real, spiritual man we actually are. This acceptance of spirituality as our genuine selfhood will demand changes in our thought and in our lives. For example, before we take an action it is legitimate to ask ourselves if "the image, of Love would behave as we are thinking of doing. Would "the image, of Love dispose of hazardous wastes in a careless way? Would this be loving our fellow humans and other creatures? How can we better exp ress our true nature as spiritual man as we interact with community members who are trying to solve pollution problems?
These and other questions can help us to sift through tangled human motives so we can perceive more readily what will best support a spiritual solution. As we think of ourselves--and all mankind--in relation to God and to His love for His children, we'll begin to see changes, in both ourselves and others, that will benefit our environment.
The answer to environmental problems isn't a simple one. It will demand much of each of us if we are truly to regain something of the purity described in the Bible. But through our prayers we can begin to uncover that creation right now.
You can find more articles about spiritual healing in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down
in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul.