It was the last day of my high school biology class: Presentation day.
For two hours straight, my classmates told me how the soaps I’m washing my hands with are exposing our bodies to antibiotics, allowing bacteria to become immune to the them so that when someone truly needs an antibiotic to fight an infection, the antibiotic will be useless.
They warned me the food I’m eating is genetically modified, and the consequence of making food production easier through genetic modification could be killer plants let loose in the wild with the ability to take over the world (they weren’t kidding).
I was alerted to the issue of the plastic containers I place my food in and the makeup I wear or the shampoo I put in my hair all contain chemicals responsible for diseases and disorders of all kinds, potentially even cancer.
What’s a person to do? Go live in isolation on a self-sustaining farm in the middle of nowhere? Travel back to medieval times when we didn’t have antibiotics to be resistant to or cars to cause pollution?
What’s a person to do? Go live in isolation on a self-sustaining farm in the middle of nowhere? Click To Tweet
As I walked out of biology class for the last time, I was overwhelmed, anxious, and quite honestly a bit scared by those unnerving two hours of presentations. It made me wonder how much of that information was true, and if it was, how should I respond?
High school biology presentations may not be an everyday experience, but hearing claims or having conversations about environmental issues is something we all probably will encounter. When we do face environmental or health concerns, there are five steps we ought to take.
1. Ask Questions
When someone makes a claim, respond with a question. Perhaps a certain chemical supposedly causes a specific disease. A logical question is, how much of this chemical does it take to cause the disease? Is the level of exposure you would have on a daily basis truly enough to be concerned?
To quote the ancient physician Paracelsus, “Everything can be poisonous; it is simply the dosage that determines whether it is or not.”
2. Do the Research
Don’t believe everything you hear, but don’t ignore it all either.
You’ve heard that air pollution from cars is wearing out the ozone layer and causing hazardous breathing conditions. Look it up! Find the facts.
We are both blessed and cursed by the internet as members of the 21st century. There is a lot of scam information out there, but there are also reputable sites with real scientific evidence to back up their claims. Look at lots of different websites, especially the .edu or .gov ones which should be credible.
3. Weigh the Consequences
Maybe you’ve found legitimate evidence from professionally conducted scientific research that a certain household product contains a potentially hazardous chemical ingredient, or that a commercial process like genetic engineering can have adverse effects on those who consume the resulting products.
Now you have a choice: will you keep buying the product?
This is where we have to exercise wisdom. On the one hand, the products we use on a daily basis may actually be harming our bodies and/or the world we live in. On the other hand, these same products may be doing good.
If genetic engineering allows companies to cheaply produce food for people who wouldn’t be able to buy the food otherwise, is it worth the possible negative effects? If eliminating hazardous products from our lives would require spending hundreds of extra dollars every week at the grocery store, not to mention all the other ways we could be taking in dangerous substances, is it worth it?
Is it even possible?
4. Recognize God’s Sovereignty
We cannot control all the factors that contribute to our health and the health of our environment. Trying to micromanage our lives in this way is not only impossible but also unhealthy for our relationship with God. In the industrial society in which most of us live, it’s simply not feasible to cut out all toxic car fumes or to prevent exposure to all phthalates, or to eat only organic food all our lives.
Trying to micromanage our lives in this way is not only impossible but also unhealthy for our relationship with God. Click To Tweet
Life is dangerous. As difficult as it may be to accept, just being alive automatically puts us at risk of all kinds of things. The sooner we realize this and choose to trust that God has numbered our days and planned our life according to his perfect wisdom, the freer we will be to serve him without reserve.
We cannot allow circumstances outside of our control to turn us into fearful, illogical beings whose top priority is self preservation.We cannot allow circumstances outside of our control to turn us into fearful, illogical beings whose top priority is self preservation. Click To Tweet
5. Rest in His Peace
The earth we live in is messed up by the consequences of sin. God has cursed this world, and until he returns, we will always be at odds with the environment around us. Disease and death continually strike the young and the old, showing favor to no one.
But God is in control. He reigns over the earth, cursed though it is, and accomplishes his purpose in each and every person’s life. As his children, we can rest assured that nothing will happen to us that isn’t a part of his plan. God calls us to be good stewards of the bodies he has given us, but he also calls us to surrender to him all that we can’t control ourselves, to rest in him in the midst of a wrecked world.
It won’t last forever. Jesus has promised to return, and when he does, he will create a new heavens and a new earth where we won’t have anything to fear. We’ll live with him, and everything will be made right.
Jesus has promised to return, and when he does, he will create a new heavens and a new earth where we won’t have anything to fear. Click To Tweet
In the meantime, let’s exercise wisdom in the choices we make regarding our health and environment so that we can serve God to our fullest potential, entrusting our lives to him, the author and sustainer of life.
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:22-25)