Eden is not ephemeral. It is created, but it was not meant to die any quicker than the rest of Creation as a whole. It’s not eternal in the sense that God is, but it stands outside of time and space. It is not exactly hidden, but is obscured from us by our fallen nature. We can’t eat from the Tree of Life because we are poisoned from the Forbidden Fruit. We have to walk through the Flaming Sword that heals us of that poisoning so we can be restored to our designed existence.
This world as we know it is not eternal. It’s disposable. Eden is not hidden someplace within this realm of existence, though we can certainly find echoes of it. It’s part of the same fabric of reality, woven from God’s moral character. Eden calls to us while we are here. We make the commitment to whatever Eden is and all that comes with it in the here and now. You won’t get a chance once you leave this world; that gateway with the Flaming Sword is here. To a large degree, that’s pretty much what this whole world is about: It serves as the only gateway back to Eden. In the Gospels, Jesus referred to it using the Persian word translated as “paradise.” It’s His garden back home in Heaven.
Part of our passage into the gateway means that we spend our lives practicing everything that belongs with Eden. We show the compassion and respect to Creation as our unfallen ally. We are naturally disturbed when we see human activity that doesn’t conform to that compassion and respect. That doesn’t mean we can do much about it, but we do what our hearts tell us is within our grasp. At the same time, we know the prophetic Scripture warns us that a part of the winding down of time-space continuum includes a certain amount of decline in our natural world.
It’s exceedingly difficult to measure such things. We aren’t granted any specifics, only a broad awareness that the world will end in part with ecological disaster. It burns our hearts and we weep knowing this is coming. The natural world is our best friend in the sense that it is as close to God as we’ll get here in this world. Of course, saying that includes the whole image of our fellow believers who become close to nature simply by virtue of letting their hearts rule. We commue together as brothers and sisters with Creation. It’s all the same package; true faith and conviction in the heart means fellowship with Creation. You can’t serve the Creator without honoring Him in His Creation.
But we don’t worship the Creation; we fellowship with it. It’s here for our use. It’s not so sacred that we must endeavor to leave no footprints. That’s a heathen notion. We use what God provided while our hearts guide us to be respectful of God’s intentions. Don’t pretend you can catalog nature in some static encyclopedia of active ingredients; you get to know nature as your friend. That way your head is ready to walk on water when the time comes. I can’t lay down a huge volume of natural laws, as if some kind of orthodoxy would do you any good in seeking the Lord’s will. What I can do is point out the broad perspective that says things like: You can harvest what’s available, but don’t trash it by putting stuff in the wrong place. For example, don’t dump petroleum on your farmland. Don’t pull stuff too far from where it occurs naturally without careful handling. You’ll know something is a problem because your heart will hear nature cry out. Don’t put stuff in your body that doesn’t match your real needs; your body is a natural resource, too. Using stuff isn’t wrong; abusing stuff by closing your mind to your heart is always wrong.
Yes, it’s always contextual. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a context where you’re left with deciding what’s the least immoral in those terms. You can’t always undo what came before and you already know that most of the world isn’t heart-led. You can do your part, but you’ll need to contemplate what God has placed in your hands. All the same, you’ll also be aware that sometimes His glory demands you do things that will be perceived as combative by those who are not heart-led. Don’t be blind to the divine calling to follow Christ to the Cross. Sooner or later we are all crucified in one way or another, so make sure you have crucified your own fallen nature first. That way you’ll suffer for the right reasons.
We are always at peace with the natural world, including all of those who share our heart-led existence. We are always under some kind of persecution from the rest of humanity. We expect that; we plan for it. Even persecution can be exploited for His glory. Because we can take it for granted, we can be fearless when His glory demands some act of resistance that gets us some bad attention. Think in terms of fallen authority broadly; it is not limited to officially vested government institutions. The world is full of government-in-effect. Only in the most rare situations will that government be just in God’s sight. So while we are aware that no human authority is legitimate before God, He still uses them and we have to respect His prerogatives. That’s what Paul meant about giving respect to worldly authorities in Romans 13 — it’s not a question of any human authority or office being sacred, but of going along with God’s plans. We do not lightly decide to resist because we want to avoid jeopardizing our own mission.
But the same goes with our own internal human limitations. Most of them are there as the background against which we play out His divine calling on us. Some of them are there so He can heal them for His glory. Your heart knows. The whole business of miracles starts first and foremost with understanding the natural world, your body included, as the Bible does: All of Creation is alive, sentient and willful. Jesus commanded the waves, not as a cultural metaphor, but because the wind and waves were “people” who served Him. So however close we are going to get to seeing those miracles of His days on earth, it starts with taking seriously the notion that Creation is alive.
We seek to restore divine justice through cooperation with Creation. Paul said it’s looking forward to us getting a clue and becoming friends (Romans 8:22). There are times and places when our battle against injustice will surge forward and we can rejoice. But we should hardly be surprised when this world conspires against that. It’s a natural ebb and flow in itself; don’t think in terms of measurable progress. The whole point is that you and I progress — that’s what nature celebrates. It’s Eden peeking through the shadows again.