We ended (Part Three) with the thought that the responsibility to share the Gospel is always ours, “Then I was told, ‘Once again you must proclaim God’s message about many nations, races, languages and kings'” (Revelation 10 v 10).
Green And Red…emption – Both Are Needed
Many Christians are worried because the Church seems to have little to say about what we are doing to animals and the environment; and the secular groups appear to have stolen our role. I believe we need a clear ‘creation theology’, which insists that God has entrusted us with the responsible care of the planet. We are stewards, not owners. Ruthless exploitation of the earth and the animal kingdom lies in stark contrast to God’s purpose for the preservation and nurture of His creation. As mentioned earlier, one movement that has climbed onto the animal welfare and environmental bandwagon is New Age. It is difficult to identify, as it embraces no one creed or organisation. Gnosticism, the fertility cults, ancient forms of Eastern spirituality, primal religions and witchcraft, are among its sources. Beliefs in unlimited human potential, the dawning of a new age, and the oneness of everything are common to most New Age thought. Three central tenets of its belief are ‘All is One’, ‘All is God’ and ‘All is Well’. There is no acceptance of human sin and guilt; no recognition of the need for forgiveness and salvation through Christ. In the November 1991 Winchester Diocese Monthly Journal, the then Bishop of Southampton wrote:-
“We need to be Red as well as Green. Red for redemption. Red for the shed blood of Jesus. Red for the Cross and its cosmic, as well as personal, significance. Creation and Redemption belong together. Creation underlines the initiating, sustaining power of God. Redemption focuses on the reconciling, self-giving love of God, even to suffering and death for the healing of the world’s wounds and the forgiveness of human sin. The profound sickness of our fallen humanity cannot be healed by ignoring or refuting the reality of sin and self-centredness. The Cross proclaims that ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself’ (2 Corinthians 5 v 19). The Creator-God is also the Redeemer-God. Nature and grace, creation and redemption, join hands in pointing us to the Love which is at the heart of all things.”
The New Age movement reflects our consumer society’s search for the spiritual dimension of life. This should challenge us to ask ourselves how effectively the Church is presenting the Gospel as ‘good news’ for our day. In the face of much on offer that entices and distorts, the importance of knowing the truth, speaking the truth and living the truth is imperative. Jesus is the real inauguration of the new age, the final age of history. Green and Red must go together.
Values And Forgiveness
As a result of the Fall, the whole world is separated from God’s perfect Will. Nowhere is this separation seen more clearly than in the higher ranks of worldly power. The influences of the world, political, commercial, social, all seek to undermine the Gospel and Christ’s authority. Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself” (John 12 v 31-32). Jesus placed all emphasis on attitude; and He anticipated that His followers would grow in understanding and love, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit; and that our attitudes would change in the fullness of time and within a closer relationship with God, “When He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all Truth” (John 16 v 13). But there is to be a Final Judgment at which Christ will exercise His authority to judge the whole earth and all peoples of all time. This will be a two-fold examination: What are our values? Do they reflect love and compassion (Matthew 25 v 31-46)? Christians are expected to reflect truly Christian values, “Much is required from the person to whom much is given” (Luke 12 v 48). Some will fail so utterly that Jesus will be unable to acknowledge them (Matthew 7 v 21-23). But there is another vital factor. Knowing that we are incapable of meeting the standards of His Kingdom, God came to earth in Jesus so that we might know Him and recognise the measure of His willingness to forgive us. Unworthy in our own merits, Christ will intercede for us and we shall be enabled to enter His Kingdom – because we first asked Him to enter our hearts. Between these two aspects of judgment we must find a balance. It IS important that we attempt to live according to the values of God’s Kingdom and it IS important that we turn to Christ in penitence to ensure that our failures will be forgiven. It seems that it is possible for us to be found wanting on either of these two counts and we would be foolish to regard this danger too lightly. No one should dare to place limits on the infiniteness of God’s grace and mercy, but it may be that, if we knowingly reject the values of God’s Kingdom and, if we knowingly turn aside from the forgiving love of Jesus who can lead us into it, then we have ourselves effectively made the choice for an eternity outside that Kingdom.
For two thousand years the Christian faith has withstood the attempts of detractors, and the effects of corruption from within its own ranks, to undermine Christ’s authority. That this faith has emerged from the preachings of such a ragtag group of disciples; and still triumphs against all attempts to dethrone its King, is for one reason only – that Jesus is the Christ. The first letter of John to the early Christians has some stern advice on this subject. Already, detractions of Christ had entered the young Christian fellowship; and John warns them to hold fast to the Gospel they had heard from Jesus, in order to gain the promise of eternal life in union with the Son and the Father, “Who then is the liar? It is anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Such a person is the enemy of Christ – he rejects both the Father and the Son. For whoever rejects the Son rejects also the Father; whoever accepts the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2 v 22). Jesus Himself spoke of prophets, some good and some false. In the Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard. He tells of a vineyard (God’s Truth) hired out to stewards (the Jewish Priests and Teachers of the Law). The stewards beat the slave messengers (prophets) sent by the owner (God) and in the end the owner has to send his own son to reclaim the vineyard. But the son was killed. It is this Son who Jesus claims to be (Luke 20 v 9-19). In the Parable of the Good Shepherd, Jesus speaks of false prophets who come to seduce away His people, “The thief comes only in order to steal, kill and destroy. I have come in order that you may have life – life in all its fullness” (John 10 v 10). Jesus said, “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one goes to the Father except by me” (John 14 v 6). I believe this is the Truth we are looking for. The sooner Christians show a practical caring for all God’s creatures; the sooner animal welfarists will acknowledge Jesus as Lord of Creation; and the sooner we will be able to work together for His creatures in His strength. As May Tripp of Animal Christian Concern said:-
“Our battle for animal rights is a conflict which is running parallel to countless other battles for human justice, but I believe that our battle is taking place on the ‘last frontier’. At last our concern has extended beyond those of human self-centredness. We are at last praying and working for a restored harmony in the whole creation”.
We need powerful prayer to combat the evil of commercial and social animal exploitation. Full-blooded Christianity is spiritual warfare, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6 v 12). For the world to change, all hearts must change. Mankind will not turn from fallen attitudes; and our passionate hopes for animals will never be fulfilled; until hearts have re-turned to God, the God we see depicted in selfless love upon the Cross.
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