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Life as God intended

Life as God intended

Life as God intended

27 May 2016

By Captain Melanie-Anne Holland

"Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

A few years ago, I became transfixed by these words and wondered, “What does God’s will look like on earth?” I have grown up in the Salvationist tradition and have shared in this prayer in faith community for decades, but on this day I was struck anew by the thought that God has intent for his earth, and as discipleI am called to seek and fulfil that intent in my living.

There is little doubt that the world is failing to flourish as God intended. Genesis 1 provides a stunning vision of the earth as part of God’s inherently good creation, teeming with life and blessing. God proclaims an ecology of wholeness, with energy, elements, landscapes, vegetation and animals in right relationship with each other. And yet our world does not appear to be thriving – ominous rhetoric of drought, food-security risk, intensifying natural disasters, species extinction, soil depletion, pollution, disease, water scarcity and climate change give calamitous voice to what we know to be true. The human species has a precarious relationship with the earth which is entirely unsustainable.

For more than half a century, many scientists, engineers, politicians, community leaders, advocates and entrepreneurs have thrown their best at mitigating the unfolding disaster – but have failed to grasp the heart of the issue. Environmental destruction is a spiritual issue. While ever the prevailing culture of arrogance, greed, quick gain, personal comfort and indifference towards our neighbours drive our economies and communities, the earth doesn’t stand a chance.

And this is where the world needs the gospel. We sing and boldly proclaim that God can change the hearts of men. Humanity needs a new ethic of humility, moderation and consideration to navigate the ecological crisis, and no amount of legislation can accomplish that. But Christ can!

The vision of the Kingdom of God, articulated in Jesus’ teaching, conveys an upside-down cultural revolution, where people are changed from the inside out. True repentance and regeneration by the Holy Spirit reform our values and lifestyles so that we move from selfishness to selflessness; stinginess to generosity; indifference to consideration; arrogance to humility. Our appetites are reformed by the compulsion to love God and our neighbour. As Paul exhorts the Church, “We are no longer conformed to the pattern of this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2).

To embody the Kingdom of God becomes a prophetic activity in our world, heralding the “now and not yet” rule of God. We consciously die to the old way of doing life – our pagan ways, the idolatry of greed and unmitigated consumerism (Colossians 3:5) – in order to embrace life as God intended, renewed in knowledge in the image of the Creator (Colossians 3:10).

However, it is also true that change does not come readily, and the Christian faith tradition testifies that disciples need discipline. Richard Forster, the author of The Celebration of Discipline writes, “The classical disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond surface living into the depths. They invite us to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm. They urge us to be the answer to a hollow world”.

Earth-care as a spiritual discipline actively empties our selfish agendas and draws us to the heart of our Creator-Father, so that we are renewed in right relationship with the divine and all that he loves. This is the practice of being the light of the world, and Christ challenges us to let our light shine before others, so that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16).

Captain Melanie-Anne Holland is the Territorial Environmental Stewardship Coordinator.

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