The Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:18-20, is God’s mandate for Christians ever since Jesus’ resurrection, to make and baptize disciples, teaching them about God’s character, values, and commands. Jesus indicated God’s value of and care for all creation, inviting believers to view earth through God’s perspective, and to tend the earth as Christ incarnate.
Jesus spoke about the responsiveness of creation to God in the form of good soil, abiding branches, trees bearing fruit, fruitful fields, and beloved sheep, using them as metaphors for those faithful to God. Within Jesus’ discourse on faith, God’s clothing of lilies and concern for sparrows became examples of God’s even greater care of people, indicating God’s daily and particular sustaining of earth through God the Son, as the writer of Hebrews noted, “He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.” A brief perusal of the Hebrew scriptures reveals God’s high assessment of and enjoyment in physical creation, pronouncing all God made as perennially, “very good.” Creation is God’s open revelation of God as Creator, eternal in power, divine in nature.
Just as God cares deeply for all creation, so we, who have our minds conformed to God’s character and values, are also to care deeply for the physical realm. Most understand this in the care of our bodies, in husbanding fields and farms, in the care of pets, in gardening and in kindnesses and even laws meant to care for wild creatures and habitats. Conversely, pollution, preventable extinctions, deforestation, stripping the earth of nonrenewable resources, destruction of ecosystems and the like betray a lack of godly care, grieving God and those who have God’s heart.
But grieving with God is only part of what it means to be united with God: those who subscribe to Christ’s teaching will also live by it. The apostolic writings are united on this: “Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves,” “Whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection,” “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh . . . If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” Each points back to Jesus, who enjoined believers to abide in him, and to express love by obedience to him.
God’s first words to humanity involved a commandment to be God’s representatives on earth, stewards bearing responsibility to manage earth’s resources, to rule with benevolent care in God’s service and to God’s glory. God designed humanity to prosper and be blessed according to God’s values and character, the principles of God’s teaching, just as creation prospers and blesses humanity because it works as it was designed to do.
God’s first gift to humanity was a garden God personally landscaped, with the call to tend it in the same manner it was planted.
God’s second gift was the opportunity and privilege of scientific study in naming all the creatures of earth.
God has put the care of our world in our hands, yet the care of humanity is organically bound in the care of the earth, as several high-profile research studies have shown: “Greenspace exposure is associated with numerous health benefits in intervention and observational studies.”
Abiding in Christ as Christ abides in every believer is both supernatural and intentional. It means to have the Spirit of Christ within, being filled with Jesus’ power, and conformed by Jesus’ character, perspective, values, and desires. To live by the Spirit, to be doers of the word necessarily involves not just the care of people, but care of the earth. Whether Christ returns tomorrow, or the earth itself is destined for destruction (as some understand the prophecy of what is to come), Jesus reminds us that today God’s eye is still on every sparrow, God clothes the lilies, God replenishes the earth with rain and brings fields white to harvest. Just as God commanded support for the disadvantaged, bereft, alienated, and vulnerable, so God has commanded the same care for the planet and all its life.
It seems creation’s destiny will always be bound up with humankind. The apostle Paul indicated creation currently suffers in hope of redemption, perhaps referring to the soil’s curse borne by Adam’s sin, and God’s promise of redemption spoken to Eve. That promise of reconciliation, restoration, and resurrection is at work in Christians who live in obedience to Christ, following the Great Commission, observing and teaching all Christ commands. Those who are attuned to God, who are guided by the Spirit, who express their love by obedience to the scriptures and to the Word of God, will be an active part of sustaining the earth.
 Mark 4:1-9, John 15:1-17, Luke 6:43-45, John 4:35-38, Matthew 18:10-14.
 Matthew 6:25-33.
 Hebrews 1:3.
 Genesis 2:2-3, Job 38-39, Psalm 147:4.
 Genesis 1:31.
 Romans 1:19-20
 Romans 12:2.
 Genesis 6:5-6.
 James 1:22.
 I John 3:22.
 Galatians 5:16, 25.
 John 15:4, 14:15.
 Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett and Andy Jones, “The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes,” Environ Res. 2018 Oct; 166: 628–637. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2018.06.030, accessed December 13, 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6562165/
 John 17:24-26.
 Romans 8:20-23.
 Genesis 3:15-18.