I have a whole collection of Bibles in many colors – black, blue, brown, white and four shades of red. They range from the early King James to the New King James, the New Revised and many other versions – including a “red letter” Bible with all the words of Jesus in red.
But I had never seen a “green Bible” until a friend gave me one last Christmas. The cover is not green.
It’s a light tan earth-tone fabric. What makes it “green” is that every word, phrase and paragraph that refers in any way to the created world is printed in green. You can flip through and hardly find a page without some words in green. This is “The Green Bible” published by Harper One.
What a painstaking task this was for the editors to locate these passages. But what’s the point in another version when we already have so many targeted ones – like the Life Application and Faith in Action Bibles?
The point is that we often read the Bible with blinders on, blinders that keep us from seeing how important this Earth and its creatures are to God – and to us. In the preface the editors of The Green Bible ask: “Is God green? Did Jesus have anything to say about the environment? What is my role as a Christian in caring for the earth?”
Followers of Christ – especially younger ones – are now asking these questions seriously. The Observer carried an article recently on how thousands of evangelical Christians are gathering across the world this month to pray about climate change (including one session at the Billy Graham Library). Rachel Lamb, the national organizer, says the Lausanne Movement for Evangelization (which I had the privilege to chair for many years) believes that “creation care” is indeed a gospel issue. “We know that God created the world,” she writes, “and it belongs to Him and not us … we are only stewards or trustees of God’s creation, and we aren’t to abuse or neglect it.”
When I open my Bible (whatever version) I find literally hundreds of passages that tell us this is so. Here are just a few:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”
“I am establishing my covenant ... with every living creature.”
“The trees of the hills… will clap their hands.”
“The Word became flesh and lived among us.”
“In him (Christ) all things hold together.”
“The creation itself will be set free from bondage.”
“I heard every creature in heaven and on earth singing.”
“I saw a new heaven and a new earth.”
Too often we make a distinction between the “spiritual” and “material” worlds as if the spiritual is more important. But that is not biblical. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “God loves material things. He made them.”
The Bible is not just about going to heaven into God’s presence when we die. It’s also about Christ coming again to renew this Earth – and to repopulate it with creatures who will tend and keep it for his glory. That is part of our discipleship. And the Green Bible provide a good guidebook.
April 22 is Earth Day. To observe it this week you might get a copy of the Green Bible and start to read it … take time for a walk on a beautiful April day and thank God for some special part of his creation … plant a tree. At church when we sing “How Great Thou Art” we could not only sing “When Christ shall come to take us home” but also “When Christ shall come to change this world!”
And as our beautiful city grows let’s let our city planners and builders know that it’s not only important but absolutely vital to our lives and community to leave plenty of open, green space. Space for humans and all creatures. And because it’s God’s space.
Leighton Ford of Charlotte is a Presbyterian minister known internationally as preacher, writer and mentor.