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Soil People

It may be tempting to think that the call to care for creation is more political than theological, and at best whisked away to a few obscure passages of Scripture; that all the talk about churches and solar panels, reducing carbon emissions to love the creation, and reconnecting to the land are outside of the purview of the church. And yet, a deep dive into the Scriptures shows that the people of God and their well-being are intimately tied up in how they treat the land, the creatures, the sea, and the sky. 

In fact, the creation’s well-being courses through the entire redemptive story of God’s work. The command to be in gracious, loving relationships with creatures, seas, and lands is as fervent today as it was in the beginning.

“Let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 

It should fascinate us as readers to discover that the Hebrew word for humankind, Adam, is where we get the English word soil from. Interestingly enough, what we have here is a Hebrew pun lost in the English language - Adema. We are ‘Adam’ from the ‘Adema’. In the Hebrew, human beings are quite literally, ‘soil people.’ (Watch this video for more). 

Called to rule, but how exactly? 

To have dominion: Is that license to do whatever we want? 

I don’t think so. If that was the case, we’d be guilty of forgetting Genesis 2:15, a passage which reads, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” Other translations say of the man, “...he was to work it and take care of it.” 

In the Hebrew, humans were put in the garden to avad and shamar the land. Avad in Hebrew is used all over the Old Testament. The famous passage from Joshua 24:15 comes in handy here.  “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Though it has several possible translations, including ‘to work’ or ‘to worship’, avad in this context likely means ‘to serve’.

Shamar, on the other hand, is littered throughout Psalm 121 referring to God’s protection, provision, and active guard over God’s people, and reflects the same meaning found back in Genesis. It tells man that his duty is to guard and to protect. Thus, avad is to serve. Shamar is to fiercely protect from harm. From the beginning in the garden, the human call to care for creation is to avad and shamar - to serve and to protect from harm. 

Why is this important? Well, as people who root our lives in the foundation that is God’s word, it is a game-changer to read about God’s love of creation in this light. God loves the creation so much that human beings, made in God’s image and created that they might reflect God’s glory, are anointed as the ones to care for, guard, and seek the flourishing of the created world.

The case for creation care is not at its heart political. It instead ultimately springs from the theological and THEN leads us to political and policy actions.  Put quite simply, to love God and reflect God’s glory is to love creation, for the Bible tells me so!

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