This past week I saw an article about Christians congregations who are composting and using the practice of compost as a metaphor to share about faith.
As the article states, “Across the country in the past decade, hundreds of houses of worship have started composting, relating it to theological concepts of resurrection and stewardship.”
The article was serendipitous because I’m launching a new e-magazine “Composting Faith” with old friends Jo Hunter Adams and Eugene Adams. Our new e-magazine will be about following Jesus and living sustainably. Jo and Eugene have been passionate about sustainability for a long time, but I’m a relative newbie to sustainability. The basic premise of our e-magazine suggests that living sustainably might give us an “in” to experiencing more of Jesus.
Wait, did I say “sustainability?” Yes, I said sustainability. In case you’re wondering, Jesus never uses the word sustainability. Go to Bible Gateway, look it up in a word search, it’s not there.
So, what am I talking about?
While Jesus may not have mentioned sustainability specifically, he did talk a lot about things like materialism, living simply, loving our neighbor and living a meaningful life. In other words, topics that circle around the topic of sustainability. When Jesus talked about loving our neighbor, it generally was not in the context of what Christians might call “evangelism,” instead Jesus’ idea of love was more practical, involving physical acts of compassion and a change in the way we do life.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19-21)
When Jesus talks about living abundantly and loving life to the full, he wasn’t talking about the accumulation of wealth, or prosperity with regards to our possessions, but instead Jesus was talking about something very different. He was talking about living a life with God and for things that truly matter.
In the gospels Jesus shares about the greatest commandment
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
When we think of the Commandments in the Bible, it’s tempting to see them as rules.
Do this and you will live. Fail to do them and you will be miserable.
Rather than seeing commandments as rules, I think it’s more helpful to see the commandments as an invitation to live an abundant life.
So, what does sustainability have to do with loving our neighbor and following Jesus?
Sustainability asks us to take a long term view at all aspects of our consumption and toward the stewardship of our resources and the environment. How are my actions affecting other people? When we start asking about how our actions affect others, we can also consider how we might love others through those same actions.
Sustainability also questions the long term viability of exploitive industries and economic systems. Is an economic system where significant numbers of people and families are forced to live below the poverty line and work in unsafe conditions sustainable?
So, as we live more sustainably, live more simply, loving our neighbor through our physical actions, I would suggest that we are responding to Jesus’ invitation.
A command like “Love Your Neighbor,” can initially seem like a sacrifice.
“What God, you want me to love that person.”
“What God, you want me to give up my comfort?”
Nevertheless, when we take a step of faith and respond to Jesus’ call to love God and love people, we discover a benefit. God surprises us. Loving our neighbor and undertaking small acts of great love is not just for our neighbor, it’s for us. It shows us what’s possible when God is alive in our life and choices. In inviting us to love him and love our neighbor, God is inviting us to bring healing to the world.
In the coming months, we’ll be exploring these topics in greater depth at our new E-Magazine Composting Faith. We will be featuring articles by different authors and interviews on the topic of following Jesus and living sustainably. I hope you’ll join us and participate in the dialogue and that together we might find the unexpected surprises and benefits of loving Jesus in the small things.
Composting Faith will be launched and the website will “go live” on Monday, January 6, 2014. For updates, come to Facebook www.facebook.com/compostingfaith.