The other day I was engaged in the obligatory yard and outside-ish work associated with owning a home and hoping to eek some little bit of equity out of it in the face of the currently murderous housing market (grr…). While I was brushing away some dead leaves by the door step, I uncovered a horrifically and unnaturally large, brown spider. While you imagine my freakishly girlish screams that accompanied this discovery, let me give some back story.

I hate spiders. Well, more appropriately, I hate them because I am afraid of them. All 190 pounds of me (yes, I know…) is scared of a less than 1 ounce creature that probably does not have the fortitude of fang to pierce my flesh to a meaningful depth. In the past, my normal reaction (after the aforementioned screaming, of course) has been to hurtle the spider in question toward no uncertain oblivion, first in the black-hole crushing weight inside of 20-ply paper towels (hey, it's a big spider!) between my fingers, then down the toilet to a final, watery doom. The incredible speed with which I execute divine fury against these creatures is only matched by the absolute terror which grips me as I make sure that the towels have, in fact, been completely flushed and that the obviously squished fellow has not miraculously escaped to perch, waiting for vengeance, just beneath the rim of the toilet seat (I'll let your imagination go crazy with that picture…).

Okay, back to the story. I have stopped screaming, and am no longer hopping around like a frenzied bovine trying to avoid the playful, yet stern nips of an aged border collie. As I stare down at the poor creature desperately trying to find a new hiding place, I raise my trusty rake above my head, ready to slay this wicked fiend.

I'm about to kill this spider, I think about John Wesley's horse.

What? Yes, seriously, I thought about John Wesley's horse.

If one is not familiar, John Wesley was an eighteenth century revivalist in England who nearly single-handedly (well, he had the help of his better-looking brother, Charles, as well as a *cough* Calvinist) created the Methodist movement (the ones who didn't want to ordain homosexuals). Part of the genius of Wesley's approach was his itinerant ministry–he would ride across England, taking the gospel to anyone and everyone who wanted to hear (and even some who didn't want to–he was often kicked out of churches and barred from others). Needless to say, in a day and age before the advent of the automobile, half of Wesley's success was invariably based upon the trustworthiness of his horse, Wesley was so greatly indebted to the trustworthiness of his horse that he, at one point, wondered if his horse would be in heaven.

So why did I think of Wesley's horse as I was about to crush the immensely helpful, yet dreaded spider? Because I believe in the eschatological restoration of creation. (E~D dons a now-serious tone).
The Scriptures are quite clear that the creation is invariably "good." Even though humans have wrecked most of it through their sinfulness and enmity towards God, the creation is still imminently valued by God. As it is valued by God, so also it is an object of redemption, part of that which will be restored and recreated in the fulfillment and reconciliation of all things realized in the rule of the Triune God in the eschaton.

What does this have to do with spiders? Everything. If I am to participate within the redemption of creation, the wanton killing of God's creatures must become anathema.

At this point, some might rightly question whether I am not taking this too far. After all, the entire cycle of creation is built upon predation–animals, including humans, are programmed to feed upon each other in order to survive, grow and thrive, are they not? This I do not deny. Predation is certainly apart of the "goodness" of creation, and I see no moral deviance in the consequence of it.
However, in my example of the spider, predation has nothing to do with anything. My killing of the spider is without purpose, and would seem rather to reflect a sinful need within my person to exercise some form of "over-power" upon other creatures merely for the purposes of my own self-actualization. In other words, given that the spider poses no threat to me, and is certainly not a source of subsistence for me and my family, nothing of meaningful value is garnered by its death, save for the pacification of my unfounded fears, and perhaps the sating of some sadistic need within me to destroy.

As I stared at that spider and quickly ruminated upon these things, I stayed my hand. Some might say, "Big deal. The life or death of one spider does not amount to much." This is probably true, and I will not try to make a moral case about the killing or non-killing of spiders. However, as I watched the spider scurry away that day, I learned something important about myself. I am so self-absorbed with my own life, problems, desires, needs, etc. that I rarely consider the value or meaning of God's creation, nor the truth that one day it will be restored to the fullness of the "good" for which God originally created it. Rather than realizing this, I normally live my life in a horrifically selfish consumption of this creation, treating and abusing it as if it is merely another commodity that can be devoured and thrown away.

But now I realize that this is yet another manifestation of the endemic cycles of sinfulness, hatred and violence in which we all find ourselves. Although God values the creation with an unbridled passion, we treat it with contempt. Despite the fact that the actualization of the eschaton of God will include the full restoration of all that God has made, we consume and destroy it as if we will be the only things which will occupy the attentions of the divine forevermore.

My simple question, then, is how should we live? If we understand and own that the restoration of creation is a promise not exclusive to only humans, but is rather a reality of which we partake along with the rest of creation, what would this do to how we occupy ourselves in the creation? Although the answers are not easy, this realization must call us to seriously reevaluate the consumptive mindsets through which many of us view–and use–the creation of God. This is more than being "environmentally conscious" (although this is certainly a part)–rather it is a reorientation to the eschatological reality that God is bringing to fruition through the unfolding of history. This restoration is not something that will simply happen "at the end of all things." Rather, I think that God intends for it to begin its unfolding now. After all, in Christ, the kingdom of God has come to earth. With it, then, begins the coming restoration.

The promise and challenge for Christians is that we are partners with God in this process. Although it is God who will bring the final eschatological fulfillment, as God's ambassadors we are called to participate within this redemption.

What this ultimately looks like, in praxis, is difficult to say. I do not think it is realized simply in buying a Prius, becoming a vegetarian, and switching to solar power. While these things are definitely advantageous (and should probably be adopted to the greatest extent possible), what is most important is a spiritual and ethical reorientation to the purposes of God in the creation. In all that we do, regardless of how the manifestation occurs, we must seek to participate within God's redemption of creation. No longer can we see the creation as an object to be used, or as a commodity to be consumed. Rather, it must become an object of love as we realize that as we care for and participate with the restoration of God's creation, so are we realizing our own redemption and 'imaging' the eschatological future fo
which we longing
ly wait and fervently work.