A wrong understanding of the gospel leads to an undervaluing of the earth. A wrong understanding of the gospel leads us to thinking that the sole purpose for our existence is to “win souls” and that nothing else outside of humanity matters to God. This is not the gospel of the Bible! While it is important to proclaim the word of God to all people, there is also more.
Prior to my time in seminary, I had never heard anyone speak about how all-encompassing the gospel truly is. It is the story of redemption. It is the story of God restoring everything that was broken, distorted, or impacted in any way by the Fall. In Genesis chapter one we read that God created everything and that it was “good”. In fact, after declaring that what God had made was good six times, chapter one ends by saying that “it was very good”. In this good creation, God made mankind in the image of himself and gave him stewardship over all the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). These verses alone point to the three fundamental relationships that human beings have. First, he has a special relationship with his Creator whose image he bears. He also has a special relationship with other humans as fellow image-bearers. And last, mankind has a special relationship with the earth, which he was created from in Gen. 2:7 and told to have dominion over in Gen. 1:28.
Unfortunately, God’s good creation did not stay so good. In chapter 3, we read about mankind’s rebellion against God and the ramifications of this fall. The result of our sin is that the three foundational relationships were broken / distorted. Our relationship with God is broken (we have turned to idolatry), our relationship with other people is broken (we have become self-centered), and our relationship with the earth is broken (rather than care for it, we exploit it for personal gain).
The rest of Scripture tells the story of how God is restoring his good creation to its original goodness. The central figure in the story is Jesus Christ, who came to this earth as a sacrificial offering to atone for the sins of humanity. The curse of the Fall could not end without a sacrifice to pay the penalty. Christ died in order that we may be given new life and once again have the relationship with God we were designed to have in Genesis 1. This restoration also makes it possible for us to have relationships with other people as we were intended to have. This is where Christ’s command to love God and your neighbor as yourself fits into the entire story of Scripture.
Christ did not die solely for humanity, but for all of creation. Romans 8:19-23 reads:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (ESV)
These verses tell us that the entire creation longs for the day it will be set free from the curse of sin. All of creation groans, along with mankind, for restoration. The ending to the story of the Bible is that God wins! He eliminates the curse of sin and he restores his creation to its original goodness. Revelation 21:1-5 reads:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (ESV)
The story of the Bible is Creation – Fall – Redemption – Restoration. In the end, God removes the curse of our sin from his creation and makes “all things new.” It is a beautiful story. God became man to die for our sin, but he did so not only restore us, but his entire creation. If he loves his entire creation this much and has in his plans its ultimate restoration, should we not as Christians have a deep love for all of creation as well? The gospel is bigger than us and it has implications for all of life.