Bible study leader says Christians must care for creation because God does

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Bible study leader says Christians must care for creation because God does

By J.A. Buchholz | June 25, 2009 {1038}

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The Rev. Pat Watkins said the idea of using less energy and recycling are not things only “tree huggers” should be doing, but actions all Christians should be taking.

The Rev. Pat Watkins tells members that care for the environment is mandated through the relationship between God, humans and nature. “God and creation are connected,” he said. “You can’t have one without the other.” Photo by the Rev. Dr. Armando Rodríguez. Photo #09-1226.

Even if Christians don’t believe in the concept of environmentalism, he said, they should do all they can to respect the earth out of their belief in Jesus Christ.

Watkins was the Bible study leader June 12-13 during the 2009 Florida Annual Conference Event at Bethune-Cookman University. His message helped underscore the annual session’s theme “Transforming the World by Cherishing the Creation.”

As a General Board of Global Ministries church and community worker assigned to the Caretakers of God’s Creation ministry in the Virginia Conferenc, Watkins raises awareness about the connection between faith and creation care and helps churches find resources to live out that understanding.

All connected

Using Genesis 2-3 as one text for his message June 12, Watkins said humankind’s environmental woes began with Adam and Eve.

After being cast out of the Garden of Eden for eating from the Tree of Life, Adam and Eve’s relationship with God and the land began to change. “God is still at work putting the relationship back together,” Watkins said.

That relationship is important, Watkins says, because man is a key part of creation — God created humankind out of the dust of the earth.

“How could we have more in common (with creation) than to be created out of it?” Watkins asked. “God breathed the breath of life into Adam.”

Those two acts are evidence that all creation — including the animals, which God created even before man — and the human race are interconnected, he said.

Many verses throughout the Bible address that relationship, Watkins said. The story of Cain and Able is one, with the earth playing a central role.

After Cain kills Abel, God tells Cain he is cursed from the ground. Cain is so distraught by the sentencing he tells God the punishment is more than he can bear, that God has driven him from the face of God.

Members gathered under the theme “Transforming the World by Cherishing the Creation.” Photo by Caryl Kelley. File photo #09-1202. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #1033, 06/13/09.

“God and creation are connected,” Watkins said. “You can’t have one without the other.”

All loved

Watkins continued his appeal for Christians to respect creation during the Bible study session June 13, focusing on Leviticus 25, which refers to God as the owner of the land and advises that the land must be allowed to rest every seven years in order to replenish itself.

The land is important, Watkins said, because it provides the sustenance God’s people need. It provides for the farmer and the people who eat his food; for the alien and the poor, who received land on the edge of farming plots to grow food so they’d have something to eat;
and for Ruth, who also found a husband while gleaning the land.

God sent manna to the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness, telling them not to save any extra because he would provide daily for their needs. They did not heed God’s command, and the manna they saved soon spoiled, teaching them a valuable lesson — they had all they needed and they were dependent upon God for their survival.

“If we could be satisfied with what we have today and not worry about tomorrow, God’s creation would breathe a sigh of relief,” Watkins said.

The scriptures show God’s care of creation is not exclusive to humans, however.

In the story of the Great Flood, God thinks so much of the animals he created he chooses Noah to protect them and makes a covenant with all creation that the catastrophe will never happen again.

And the inclusion of elements of the natural world in the parables — Jesus walking on water, stilling a storm, casting nets on water — shows God doesn’t just love man, but all of the cosmos, Watkins said.

Caring for creation: an act of discipleship

There are those, Watkins said, who say it’s great for Christians to be advocates for the earth, but the church should focus more on making disciples. Watkins counters that caring for creation can both make disciples and be an act of discipleship.

If Christians truly love God and strive to be disciples of Jesus Christ, he said, they will use fewer fossil fuels, drive less and more fuel-efficient cars, plant more trees, restore habitats for animals, and improve air and water quality.

A member considers her bottled water during discussion at the opening session of the conference event after learning from the guest speaker that Americans consume 2 million bottles of water every five minutes. Photo by Caryl Kelley. Photo #09-1227.

Doing so, Watkins said, improves the planet for future generations, but it also shows care for the things God loves and created — man and nature.

A church in the Virginia Annual Conference added at least one family to its community of faith because of its environmentally friendly attitude, Watkins said. A visitor was so impressed that the church cared enough about the environment to use waterless urinals, saving 40,000 gallons of water — as noted on a church plaque — he and his family decided to attend regularly.

The environment is relevant to the family that cares about what is happening to creation, Watkins said.

Pauline Brooks, a member at Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, said Watkins’ comments opened her eyes to way she views creation. She said she is beginning to make small steps toward being more environmentally aware.

“I’m trying to embrace it,” she said. “I’m recycling water bottles. The Bible study was a great way for me to want to do more.”

More information about the conference session, including a schedule of activities and reports presented, is available at

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a freelance writer based in Seffner, Fla.

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