A Devotional for theThird Week of Lent
By Rev. Paul Henschen
And God said, “Let us make humankind in our image….and let them have dominion over….” (Genesis 1:26)
A basic premise of our scriptures is that God is Creator and everything else has been created. God has given us tremendous freedom by creating us in God’s image and by giving us dominion over creation. So when was it that humankind decided that having "dominion over" meant we could do what we wanted to the earth and its creatures? Is that what God intended?
The Hebrew word for “to have dominion” is "radah," meaning "to rule over". It is used frequently in the Old Testament to describe a king’s rule over subjects or nations (see http://www.directionjournal.org/article/?922). But there is an implied sense of responsibility and care involved.
When we consider the process of fracking, where does humankind's God-given mandate of dominion come into play? Fracking has allowed companies to obtain natural gas and oil from sources that were previously too deep to reach. But at what cost? Are we being responsible dominion-rulers of the earth by using the fracking process? Common sense tells us that injecting the earth with deadly chemicals might be a bad idea. What about possible contamination of water aquifers beneath the surface? Accidents have occurred and will continue to occur. Human error is inevitable. Spills occur on the surface (see http://www.propublica.org/special/north-dakota-spills). Also, companies are rarely using profits to develop clean, sustainable energy sources.
A responsible ruler that has dominion over his/her subjects exercises authority with care and compassion. And our Ruler, our King, is Jesus Christ. How does Christ exercise dominion over us? Jesus Christ, and God whom he has revealed, is far more compassionate and loving than we realize. Jesus Christ is our model as we exercise our God-given dominion over creation. We are made in God’s image. To be faithful to that image, to follow the example of Christ, how can we do no less than what is best for the earth rather than what is expedient for ourselves?
Rev. Paul Henschen is pastor at The Presbyterian-United Methodist Church in Ellendale, North Dakota, and he serves Presbyterians for Earth Care as the Midwest Regional Representative.
Click here to download the entire 2013 PEC Lenten Devotional, "From Ashes to Resurrection, From Soot to Hope"!