The Heartbeat
And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion… – Genesis 1:28

The above scripture is often referred to as "The Cultural Mandate." This was the original command given by God to Adam and Eve. To those who believe in the authority of scripture, there is no question but that Adam and Eve (and those that followed after them) were commanded by God to become "lords" over the earth.

Several weeks have now passed since our annual involvement in Go Beyond (a county wide, multi-church effort to bless our county by means of various practical acts of kindness). As in former years, my "thing" has been not only to help pack meals (with the agency GAIN) for refugees in Africa or Syria, but also to be involved, daily, in picking up roadside trash. This year, the help with the trash pickup was a bit sparse, but the weather was more than conducive to helping make the daily two-hour shift tolerable. I believe a total of 43 gloves were picked up this year (the record was 47, from last year) and the trash collected that week completely filled Burning Hearts' dumpster twice.

Now, these many weeks later, I would like to offer some reflections on these two items: the cultural mandate and picking up roadside trash…

  1. Plastic may be near the top of 20th century inventions, its ubiquitous presence speaking for itself. But from a caring for the earth perspective, few things have been worse for our planet. Plastic car parts, plastic bottles, plastic signs, plastic trinkets, plastic buckets, plastic bags, plastic pens, plastic phone cases…you name it, we found it in plastic. And what we found along the roadside is nothing compared to the amount of plastic trash floating on the ocean's surface. Something needs to change.

  2. Connected with point #1 are the number of plastic water bottles. Whoever came up with bottled water most certainly "made a killing" financially. But if the roadsides of Lancaster County (routes 283 and 30) are reflective of what one would find around the country, the number of these bottles littering our roadsides must be in the millions. States like Hawaii, Michigan and Maine (to name a few) have placed mandatory deposits on ALL plastic beverage containers. Why Pennsylvania is not on that list of states is a mystery to me. If I were a politician, that is one of the bills I would introduce. Over the course of those five days I personally picked up close to 1,000 plastic beverage containers, the majority of them being empty water bottles.

  3. The whole environmentalist mentality has, by and large, somehow escaped the Christian community. How it has done this is a mystery to me. For if anyone has a grasp, or should have a grasp, on the notion of us being granted this earth under the terms of stewardship, it is Christians…the Christian church. The church should be LEADING the environmental battle. We should be the vanguard of the movement. For we understand God's command to be lords over the earth.

  4. While the Go Beyond week is only a one-week annual event – and I have limited my clean-up actions to that week – I am hopeful things can improve every week of every year.

    • When I lived in Los Angeles (early 1970s) I can remember, more than once, needing to drive my vehicle to the side of the road, stop, and cry. My eyes were burning so badly from the smog, I could not continue driving. Today, the air in and around L.A. is GREATLY IMPROVED.

    • Thirty years ago, people were speaking about Lake Erie as though it had died. Today, Lake Erie is dramatically cleaner than it was 30-40 years ago.

    • And if eleven states have now enacted legislation that gives a financial incentive for having cleaner roadsides, maybe it is only a matter of time before the other 39 states get with it. When I was a child, I collected glass soda bottles and got 2 cents for each bottle. Image what a nickel deposit on every plastic bottle would do? Your kids would jump at the opportunity to make some easy money.

On the day of judgment, most certainly we will all need to answer the question, "What did you do with my Son?" Our personal eternities will hang on our answer to that question. But I believe God may also ask, "And what did you do with the earth?" We were commanded to "subdue it" and "have dominion." Those are good words…much better words than that we polluted it, littered it, and made it an eyesore. We can do better than that. Let's lead the way.

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