While inter-railing, I had a line of a well-known kid’s song stuck in my head: He’s got the whole world in His hands. Before my trip, I was eager to see more of God’s creation, and convinced that it would leave me acutely aware of His glory. What I didn’t expect was to be left with a stronger conviction of my role regarding this creation, as I considered myself fairly switched on when it comes to doing what I can to protect the environment.
God has got the whole world in His hands, but sometimes we forget it’s also in ours. In Genesis 1:26, God creates humans in His image: “So that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” The key words here are: “so that”. They imply that we can only rule over creation successfully if we do so in a way that reflects God’s character. In other translations, “and” is used instead, but the implication remains that ruling over creation follows on from being created in God’s image. So in verse 28, when we’re told to “subdue” the earth, I’m pretty sure God didn’t mean we should destroy it, because in verse 31 He “saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” I’m also pretty sure that God isn’t lazy, so cutting corners when recycling, using more plastic than we need to, or not bothering to turn off the lights, is not reflective of His character. Maybe ‘doing what I can’ simply isn’t good enough; maybe I need to be more radical, and more committed.
As I stood on the shore in Flåm and absorbed my incredible surroundings; as I marvelled at the views from the Oslo-Bergen train; as I sat awake on an overnight train and watched the Danish sunrise, the more awestruck I became. But perhaps less predictably, the more rubbish we produced while camping; the more difficult it became to find a recycling bin and the more plastic bags we used because everything was wet, the more aware I became that the bin men collecting our rubbish is not the end of the story. Every bag holds consequences for beautiful places like Norwegian fjords, Swedish forests and Danish fields.
At times on my trip, I had an overwhelming sense that the world is indeed in God’s hands, but I also felt an urgent sense of responsibility. We can pray that God will prevent another disaster; that He will comfort those whose homes and livelihoods are destroyed; that He will protect the world’s most beautiful places. But to equate He’s got the whole world in His hands to it’s not my responsibility is wrong. While we should never underestimate what an omnipotent creator is capable of, we should also never forget that we are representatives of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:27 tells us that we are Christ’s body on earth; Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) wrote this: “Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours.” God may have the whole world in His hands, but as followers of Christ, we are His hands. So you can take that line of a children’s hymn to be a reassuring comfort blanket, or you can take it as an immense responsibility. We’ve got the whole world in our hands.