Earth Day 2022: A Time for a Watchman on the Wall

[An opinion piece published by Baptist News Global on April 21, 2022.]

Here we are again – another Earth Day. Another opportunity to celebrate all that draws us closer to God through this beautiful and awe-inspiring world. In much of the U.S., a taste of Spring is bursting forth as we watch fruit trees bloom, gardens get planted, and picnics planned. It is also a day to mourn the ongoing destruction of this same world. We try our best to get through the daily news of more lives lost in Ukraine. We struggle through more scientific reports warning of the dire consequences of climate change without drastic action. We prepare for the upcoming hurricane or fire seasons. Somehow, we’ve gotten used to living in a surreal world.

While we watch wars, wanton destruction, and abuse – even in our own communities – we find solace in a hike among the trees or the daily beauty of a sunrise. Living in a surreal world, however, takes energy. The constant struggle of Christians to show love to our neighbors is exhausting. We cannot care for everything. Many of us are just trying to pay our bills each month and get our children fed. We cannot grieve everything. The losses due to COVID the past two years, plus the ongoing losses to our environment, are overwhelming.

I struggle with living in this ongoing turbulence, being buffeted to and fro by competing images of pain and beauty. I am not alone. One solution is to ignore the dual images and focus only on one or the other. Some have chosen this path. I have been called to a different way forward: that of the watchman.

Ezekial 33: 1-7 relates God’s message for Ezekial to be a watchman – a sentinel – to warn God’s people of coming war. This same message applies as much today as it did then:

“Son of man, speak to your people. Tell them, ‘If I bring war on this land and the people take one of their citizens and make him their watchman, and if the watchman sees war coming and blows the trumpet, warning the people, then if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet and ignores it and war comes and takes him off, it’s his own fault. He heard the alarm, he ignored it—it’s his own fault. If he had listened, he would have saved his life.

 “‘But if the watchman sees war coming and doesn’t blow the trumpet, warning the people, and war comes and takes anyone off, I’ll hold the watchman responsible for the bloodshed of any unwarned sinner.’

 “You, son of man, are the watchman. I’ve made you a watchman for Israel. The minute you hear a message from me, warn them.”

There are many watchmen among us. I am one of them. My task is to warn others of the impending doom of climate change. It is real. It is already making people sick, even causing the death of many. This does not include the countless species of plants and animals that God created and loved which are dying due to our lack of care for creation. Some do not want to hear this message. I do not want to give it. I do not want to be a watchman. It pains me to tell you that everything is not going to be okay. It hurts to read report after report of the consequences of a world that is suffering. All creation is groaning and it is not okay. It will be – someday. Our Lord will return and all will be made right – someday. But I have not been given the information on when that time will be. No one has. For now, I am called to speak the truth to others about our failure to care properly for creation.

Is there hope? Of course there is! Hope is found in the Risen Savior who is worshiped and celebrated around the world.

Hope is found in each person who sees the beauty of God’s glorious world and makes the decision to keep caring for it.

Hope is found in each child who challenges us to care for all of creation so that they have a future.

Hope is found in the voices of the watchmen who keep raising the alarms despite the challenges of pain, depression, or even being seen as an alarmist.

Hope is found every time we heed the notice of the watchman and take steps to prepare for the future.

Hope is found in Christians who insist on being the love of Christ in the world. The environmental war we are facing is real and horrible. Only Christ’s love, provided by his hands and feet in this world, is strong enough to carry others through the challenges ahead.