Does God Love Sharks?

Job 38:4-7; 41:1-11

Many of us become interested in certain topics because of our children or grandchildren.  A few years back my grandchildren became fascinated by sharks – hammerheads, great whites, makos, and the legendary megalodon, the largest creature ever to live on our planet.  We read books, saw movies, followed Shark Week on the Discovery channel, and played games, focusing on these fierce predators.

Now, humans and sharks have had a difficult relationship, to say the least. Many of us shudder when we think of the great white of “Jaws” and the ocean empties with the glimpse of a shark on the horizon.  Sharks are described as killing machines, heartless, without compassion, focused on one thing only – their prey.  Sharks are fascinating, but most of us could get along without them, and we wonder, “Does God love sharks?”

Now, sharks aren’t the only creatures that fascinate, frighten, annoy, and repel us: no one likes ants at a picnic, carpenter ants and termites in your walls, or mosquitos on a summer’s eve.  We are increasingly fearful of ticks and must take precautions to avoid tick bites and the possibility of Lyme’s disease.  Could God possibly love these creatures?

And, yet, here they are – our companions on this wondrous, diverse, amazing planet.

The words from Job, part of God’s description of creation in its wondrous wildness, are majestic, and put our lives in perspective.  Where were you, God asks Job, when I created the earth? When I brought forth the stars and galaxies?  When I set boundaries to the sea?

God is reminding Job that he isn’t the center of the universe; that human life is part of an intricate ecology, each aspect of which is necessary and contributes to the whole.

Then, God reminds Job of the leviathan. While many scholars believe that this mighty and predatory creature was the crocodile, I prefer to see the leviathan as a symbol of everything that is untamed and beyond our control, fascinating but fearful, on our planet.  The leviathan, like the great white or hammerhead, is not concerned with our well-being, doesn’t want to be our pet, but it has a place in God’s good earth.

When God created, the morning stars and angels sung with joy!  We live in a world of praise, majestic and wonderful beyond belief, whether or not it suits us or supports our causes.  In the creation story of Genesis, God surveys everything God creates, and affirms it is good.  Our world is God’s world, good and wonderful, and though the interplay of divine creative wisdom and the ongoing processes of evolution, competition, and cooperation, have led to creatures who at first appear to be our enemies, once we recognize that we aren’t the center of the universe, we can marvel at these creatures, even as we choose to avoid them.

Does God love sharks?  The answer must be “yes” as they fill their role in God’s wondrous world.  They do what they are intended to do, stay within their bounds, and don’t upset the ecological balance.

And, then there are humans!  While we can’t help but prefer our own kind, we must admit that we have made a mess of things – we have created islands of plastic in the oceans, polluted waterways, put the survival of species at risk.  We have shaped the climate in ways that threaten animal life, raise sea levels, and put not only our Cape but our grandchildren and their children at risk.

Does God love us?  I think the answer is “yes.”  But, we need to reclaim God’s calling:  God has called us to care for creation, to become partners rather than destroyers, to garden the world bringing beauty rather than pain to creation.

Forty years ago, one of my professors John Cobb titled his book on Christianity and ecology “Is It too Late?”  And we must confess that we don’t know.  There are limits to what our planet can take.

We have a calling today – to find ways to care for the planet, to live more simply, to love God’s world by focusing on the earth rather than our desires, to treasure each moment and each creature even those we don’t like, as God’s handiwork.

My prayer is that it’s not too late, but the challenge is there – and there are ways each of us can beautify the earth – we can be God’s companions, loving and creating, being God’s partners in healing the earth.