Living Ecological Justice: Redemption vs. Restoration

A reflection on “Creation’s Redemption” by Leah Kostamo from  Living Ecological Justice.

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” ~ Colossians 1:15–20

In the five days that God took to speak the world into being, all things were balanced and good. The planets had their places and so did the trees and flowers. Water was distributed and animals were allocated to the air, land, and water. There were established systems and restorative processes which would ensure that natural resources continue to replenish and provide for human beings and other creatures.

Creation has always been renewing – and restoring – itself, as long as humanity leaves it well alone. However, due to humans’ determination to exercise control and authority over creation, we are rapidly undoing what God spoke into being, disrupting a divinely designed balance. To begin participating in creation’s restorative processes calls for a change in our attitude or a modification of perspectives with regards to the role of human beings in creation.

Leah Kostamo’s reflection on Colossians 1: 1520 left me considering the difference between redemption and restoration.

Christianity defines redemption as an act of atonement where Jesus Christ bore the sin of the world on his shoulders. In his suffering, death, and resurrection, Jesus overcame the powers of death and the consequences of sin on behalf of humanity. In his act of self-offering for the sake of reconciling the world to God, the Creator, Jesus is identified as the Redeemer of the world. God’s redemptive plans were once and for all accomplished in Jesus, and so I struggled with the concept of redemption as a continual process.

In contrast, I see restoration as a constant striving to an earlier state and, therefore, a continuous process. This understanding gives humanity a significant role and a responsibility to participate in lessening the impact of human agendas.

Human beings must remember that we are a part of creation as a whole; we are a small part of the entire creative blueprint. God took one day to create humankind into being and five days to form the rest of creation. This points to the complexity of the universe around us and at the same time, challenges humanity’s self-declaration of mastery over creation.

“God’s ultimate redemption of creation has serious implications for our motivation for caring for the earth. We do not try to save the world: rather, we join in the saving work God has already begun. We become God’s co-labourers, co-operating with the Spirit in making all things new,” reflects Leah Kostamo.

The power to create from an abyss remains with God. The power to redeem the world remains with the self-offering of Christ. In addition to the power of nature to participate in the restoration of creation to perfect balance resides the power – and responsibility – in all peoples and communities to act today.

The season of Lent begins with the words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” By recognizing that we are of the same substance as that which lies under our feet reconnects us with the rest of creation in a very intimate way. Remembering that we are dust recalls an appropriate sense of humility and respect the Genesis creation stories commands its readers to have towards creation. Kostamo invites readers to reconsider the participation of all creation in God’s restorative plans for the whole created world: “God evidently want[s all of us] ‘in’ on the act of creation’s redemption as a co-labourers and participants in the sustaining and redeeming of all things.

This is the second in a series of reflections, contemplating the themes explored by contributors to CPJ’s “Living Ecological Justice: A Biblical Response to the Environmental Crisis.”


  • JoAnne Lam

    JoAnne Chung Yan Lam is a Hong-Kong born Chinese-Canadian who has travelled many countries and enjoys learning about new cultures. She is the proud mother of Deborah (2005) and Gideon (2007). JoAnne was baptized at the St. Philip's Lutheran Church in Hong Kong, trained in The United Church of Canada, and was a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Geneva, Switzerland from 2002-2012. After 10 years in Geneva, JoAnne returned to Canada. Currently, she is a member of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Kitchener. She has a Master of Theological Studies from Emmanuel College, Toronto School of Theology, as well as a Master of Advanced Ecumenical Studies from the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, affiliated with the World Council of Churches and the University of Geneva.

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