Relationships that delight the heart of God: Going beyond environmentalism

Creation, Creation Care , Relationships

Contributed by: Food for the Hungry Canada


Mike Janz, FH Canada’s Director of Philanthropy and Public Engagement, sat down with A Rocha Canada’s co-director, David Anderson to talk about the broken relationship we experience with creation and how all of our other relationships—with God, self, and others—are intricately connected. It’s about so much more than simply being an ‘environmentalist!’


MJ: Food for the Hungry’s approach to community development is built upon the understanding that alleviating the many facets of poverty requires a holistic solution: a restoration of the relationship between us and God, between us and others, between us and ourselves, and between us and creation. For you, both personally and in your work with A Rocha, what does it mean for one to have a broken relationship with creation? What might the impacts of that broken relationship be in our Canadian context?

DA: Our Judeo Christian origin story in Genesis paints both a stark and complex picture of our broken relationship with creation. It’s stark, because when we choose to distrust the character of our Creator and instead make choices out of our own insecurity, fear and self-autonomy (listening to serpent temptations about the character of God and reality) every relationship we care about is corrupted. It’s complex, because that self-centredness gets woven into economic systems that we create that often harm people (we’re creation also) and places. Examples abound in our Canadian context: the ongoing reconciliation work with Indigenous people is poignant and hard, biodiversity of species is falling rapidly, urban sprawl commonplace, undervaluing of farmers and farmland stewardship, rivers and oceans less healthy, kids can name hundreds of logos and apps, but can’t name local trees or fish or birds. Thanks be to God, our Creator doesn’t leave us dead in selfishness and sin, but pursues, saves and offers a different way of life. 

MJ: David, we have known each other a long time, and have spent countless hours together being restored by time in creation. For those who are feeling need of this restoration, what might restoration of a broken relationship look like in Canada, and what might some steps be towards this restoration?

DA: Food for the Hungry highlights the biblical reality that God in Jesus is about restoration of all our primary relationships, and that is so vital and hopeful in engaging this question. As we turn from self-centredness and toward trust of our Creator God, we’re able to spread shalom wherever the Lord has planted us. We’re made to be worshiping restorers – to forgive, build, nurture, and protect that which God has placed in our sphere of influence. So get curious, and ask the Spirit of God for how to begin. Plant herbs in a pot on your 26th floor apartment, watch pollinators be blessed, and put them in a meal for a neighbour. Take your Sunday school class outside and get to know birds and seeds and trees, make Jesus’ parables come alive! Bless your family and God’s good earth by fasting from shopping from cheap stuff that doesn’t last. Show up to a municipal council meeting and stand up for wetlands, rivers, forests and species at risk; not because you’re an “environmentalist” (cue the stereotype reel) but because you love the Lord, love your neighbour, and care about the land. Invest in people and enterprises that honestly care about honouring people and the ecosystems in which we reside. The list is endless, and can be pursued with joyful, faithful hearts rather than guilt. 

MJ: One last question – it would appear that globally we are feeling the effects of a systemic broken relationship with creation, and we often hear that it is those facing the realities of poverty who are most affected by this. How are vulnerable people and communities affected by broken relationships with creation? How might a restored and healthy relationship with creation benefit poverty alleviation, both here at home and globally?

DA: It is absolutely the case that those with less wealth have little to no buffer to alleviate the suffering caused when creation’s health is broken by sin. When subsistence farmers in South America, or Asia or Africa have to flee catastrophic flood events in large part caused by exploitative logging, mining, and industrial agriculture (fueled by desire for cheap goods and food in wealthier countries), lives are lost, livelihoods and homes decimated. When multi-generational family owned, local scale fishing communities are devastated by industrial drift net fishing fleets and estuaries choked with plastic and pollutants; the problem isn’t merely government policy or inadequate monitoring (both important), the problem isn’t ‘them’, the problem is me and the desires I place above honouring God by caring for others, and caring for the earth. By care, I don’t mean fuzzy feelings about sunsets or good friends (of which you’re one), but sustained loving action towards blessing or shalom. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth – as in heaven. As we understand that God makes and sustains us on this earth in interconnected ways, and we practice wisdom in our choices, ecosystems and livelihoods and communities can become healthier. Buying good coffee grown well by farmers getting a fair wage makes a difference. Meeting that farmer, and knowing that my choices bless a family, and bless that farm: it’s soil and trees, biodiversity and creeks; that makes a difference. That’s what A Rocha and Food for the Hungry seek to do, commit to the relationships that delight the heart of God.