Words by Josiah Piett
As followers of Jesus we are called to be cultivators of the Kingdom of God in whatever environment we find ourselves in. The prayer that defines the life of a follower of Jesus is one that asks for the Father’s will and Kingdom to be fulfilled on earth as it is in heaven (Luke 11:2-4). This proclamation is more than just a sentiment; it is in the DNA of the new heart that is given to all who follow Jesus.
All who respond to Jesus’s invitation to relationship receive the Holy Spirit and a new heart. The Spirit in us stirs our hearts for the Father’s will. This desire is not limited to our thoughts, emotions, or actions—though it can be seen, thought of and experienced. Ultimately, this new desire is conditioned upon us as having a choice. We choose whether or not we follow the will of God. The Father of all things refuses to force our hands to do anything, and the enemy of this world does not hold that kind of power over those in whom the Spirit abides.
So, what does any of this have to do with the title of this article? I know the evil, destruction, and injustice occurring in world is almost immeasurable. So why even bother with straws when there are so many other issues?
In my experience, people who ask that question tend to be people who aren’t doing anything to serve others or to fight against evil and participate cultivating Kingdom of God. If our prayer as believers is that God’s will and Kingdom are to come to earth, then caring about environmental issues such as plastic straws absolutely matters.
Here’s a story, originally by the American nature writer Loren Eiseley, that my sister told me. I hope this brings perspective to you the way it did me.
There once was a girl walking on beach who saw thousands of starfish washed up from the sea. She began to go one by one to each starfish and throw it back into the sea so that it could survive.
A man came up to the girl and said, “Why are you doing this? You can’t possibly save them all. What you are doing is a waste of time and will never make a difference.”
The girl, without skipping a beat, grabbed another starfish and threw it into the ocean. She looked up at the man and said, “It made difference for that starfish.”
You may have heard some rendition of that story before, but the point is important. You can’t do everything, but you can do some things.
In my experience, Western Church culture can sometimes feel like watching the news. There is always some issue (spiritual, physical, emotional, cultural, environmental, etc.) going on whether locally or globally that we must do something about. We can develop a superhero mentality where we need to be the answers for all these problems. Or, in many cases, we can be passionate for a week or two and then become apathetic. I have certainly found myself in both camps many times. So again, the question still remains: Should we as followers of Jesus care about the environment when there seems to be so many other issues at hand?
I think there are many reasons why followers of Jesus have an advantage when it comes to dealing with injustices in the world. I know that could be a very offensive statement but I believe it’s true. And here is why:
Followers of Jesus have a relationship with the Creator of this world who cares about these matters far more than any human could ever imagine. I believe the Holy Spirit will give Christians insights and strategies to see Kingdom restoration in these issues. The Church is called to be one body—unified through one Spirit. Individually, we are not called to solve every injustice we see, but collectively as one Church (locally and globally) we are called to participate in the restoration of all injustices.
“Collectively as one Church (locally and globally) we are called to participate in the restoration of all injustices.”
This is what gives us an upper hand in the pursuit to restore all things. Followers of Jesus have hope because this is not dependent on our obedience—our Father invites us to join in on what He is already doing. This allows us to not have to deal with burnout like most people in activist movements because we’re not operating on our own power. If it’s all up to us we will never find rest, but we can trust that it is God who is doing the work, not us.
Followers of Jesus should be leading the way when it comes to restoration: individually, socially, politically, economically, educationally, and environmentally. Too often in our churches we limit people’s potential because we define noble Christianity as being pastors or missionaries overseas. This leaves the majority of us feeling purposeless. This is simply not biblical; it’s crippling to any follower of Jesus.
Please, if you’re reading this and God has given you a passion for the environment, don’t throw that away because you feel like it is less spiritual than pursuing other things. We are called to see all things restored by, for, and through Jesus Christ, on earth as it is in heaven.