Could God be using COVID-19 to send us into a creation care exile?

Nelson Lee is an environmental engineer who advises companies on issues of sustainability.

I have been caring for creation as an environmental engineer working with the manufacturing sector for over 30 years. A few things I have learned about the drivers of pollution include:

• Consumption – if someone is not buying, soon no one will be making

• Consumers mostly don’t want to pay the fair price or true cost for products (and services) so manufacturers try to externalize these costs

• Consumers do not consider the full life cycle costs and impacts in their purchasing choices

• Manufacturers produce excessive waste because they don’t consider the life cycle of an item, and they don’t pay the externalized costs of pollution

• More people, more consumption. More affluence, more consumption. More advertising, more consumption. We never seem to have enough!

My conclusion is that over-consumption and inherent wasteful practices (largely because of externalizing costs), have driven most of the world’s environmental problems. These include:

• Species extinction; Habitat destruction, particularly the oceans
• Climate change
• Degraded air, water and land (soil) – what God uses to sustain us and all life

As a Christian for nearly 25 years, I recall that the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. He created it for his own good pleasure. He put us here as His earth keepers to care for the earth and its plants and creatures. O how we have failed Him! And in failing God, we failed our neighbours – especially the poor; especially those in far-away countries.

Enter the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are like me, your consumption has dropped dramatically.

My spending now is for food (and water – free in BC) and shelter (rent). I am not spending on clothing because the clothes I have are lasting so far. In essence, like Paul said, if I have food and clothing, with these I will be content. (oh yes, I am spending on access to the internet).

What happened here? My over-consumption has been reigned in. It’s as if God has put an end to my over-consumption. Seems to be similar to when he put an end to the Israelite’s failure to give the land its Sabbath rest.

God had had enough and used Nebuchadnezzar to send Israel into exile – for 70 years! The land was finally going to get its Sabbath rest! God stepped in to take charge because the Israelites failed to do their God-ordained Sabbath keeping job.

My question is, could God be using COVID-19 to send us into a kind of exile? Did God just step in to take charge because we failed to do our God-ordained earthkeeping job?

Take a look at Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah (include the end of 2 Chronicles and perhaps some Deuteronomy, Psalms 8, 19, 24, 104 in particular), Colossians 1:15-20 and the Gospels.

This Easter is like no other in the life of anyone living. Is it too much to ask that our gratitude for the Creator and Sustainer of all life and everything else who came to die in our place on the cross, include a re-commitment to caring for his Creation?

One way is by saying enough to our consumption! Lord have mercy! Christ have mercy!

Nelson Lee is the founder of Green Sky Sustainability, which works on climate action (mitigation and adaptation) for organizations, and volunteers with Earthkeepers: Christians for Climate Justice and Climate Stewards. He lives in downtown Vancouver and attends Chinatown Peace Church.

3 comments for “Could God be using COVID-19 to send us into a creation care exile?

  1. Dr. Ruth Derksen
    April 16, 2020 at 11:24 am

    What?? Excuse me! God us doing what?

    So grandpas and grammas are dying in Care Homes because God is teaching us a lesson?

    Looks like “everything happens for a reason that I make up” or in philosophically rhetorical terms – Confirmation Bias.

  2. Nelson Lee
    April 21, 2020 at 5:28 am

    Perhaps you are right. How do you see it? Alternatively, can you rule it out?

    • Ruth
      April 22, 2020 at 1:29 pm

      Thanks for your response Nelson.

      To continue, I believe that free will has been granted to us and that good and evil coexist. A virus such as COVID-19 is the result of brokenness and evil in the world. But I believe that God is love and God is creative.

      I choose to believe that God can take any situation, including this virus, and creatively turn it into good. Good for everyone, not just for me. What that “good” looks like remains a mystery, far beyond what my limited mind is able to conceive.

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