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Forests and the Cross of Christ

If you have ever walked a pine forest, stood in the shadow of a redwood, or heard the surf-sound of rustling leaves in autumn, you’ve experienced the awe of standing in the presence of steadfast giants, the unwavering witnesses of wind and rain, the bending and swaying but rarely yielding trees that are both rooted to this earth and reaching for the heavens.

Trees connect us to Eden, to Eve and to Adam, to the other mothers and fathers of our faith that fashioned wood into arks and staffs and temples, all the way to the cross, the tree that Jesus Christ died on to restore and renew all of creation with the Word of love. Jesus made a way where there was no way. It was on the sacrifice of a tree that God chose to bring about new life.

Of course, trees are far more essential to our survival beyond just metaphor or symbol. While symbolically, Christians can point to the true cross as the gateway to rebirth and new life in Christ, God has been using trees as a means to save for centuries upon centuries.

Trees Are Nature’s Thermostat

Without trees eating up carbon dioxide and storing it in their wood, the planet would be a much hotter and unsustainable environment. Through photosynthesis, trees absorb the gases that could turn our planet into an oven. Then, trees do one better, holding onto carbon and releasing oxygen so we humans can breathe easy. 

While trees are busy cooling the planet down with their carbon dioxide diet, they’re also simultaneously serving as natural air conditioning, providing much needed shade in an increasingly hot and sunny world. According to the EPA, shaded surfaces may be 20-45 degrees cooler than the peak temperatures of unshaded materials. Even if you aren’t in the shade, trees can reduce peak summer temperatures by 2-9 degrees through a process called evapotranspiration.

Trees Are Creation’s Filtration System

High mountains of Adjara, Georgia. Image: Marita Kavelashvili

According to The Nature Conservancy, trees that are planted in large cities serve as pollution filters. More trees in cities can reduce health issues like bronchitis, glaucoma, heart attacks, autism, high blood pressure, cognitive development problems in children, asthma, and heart disease. Trees mitigate the impact of air pollutants by altering the concentration of those pollutants, reducing energy consumption in buildings, and directly removing pollutants from the air.

We can also thank trees for naturally filtering out pollutants and sediments from rainfall so that our drinking water is cleaner and safer by the time it reaches our faucets. Trees do this by catching the water in their branches, leaves, and roots, absorbing this water, and then slowly releasing it into the surrounding environment.

Trees Are Testifying to the Love of Christ

Every day, trees are quietly showing off and testifying in physical form to the message of the cross: there is salvation and new life, all around us. God baked it right into his creation and revealed it to us once on a cross long ago. 

There is Living Water that washes us white as snow.

From the Cross to the Trees: Forest Preservation and Restoration

When we remember the deep physical and spiritual connections all of humanity has to trees, it makes it easy to celebrate International Day of Forests on March 21. Our planet’s forests are actively saving, filtering, and restoring the elements created by God that are necessary for our survival. As the caretakers entrusted with God’s creation, it’s our job to tend the garden so that those forests can continue to support us. 

This means protecting old growth forests, which do the heavy lifting of carbon storage; visiting forests to be reminded of the wonder God folded into the forests; teaching your children and grandchildren about trees; sharing your love of trees with others; planting trees and vegetation in urban areas; planting trees in your own yard; buying rainforest alliance certified products; supporting conservation organizations; using tree-free products; and enjoying forests responsibly.

You can even support the message of the Gospel by choosing to give timber as a means of funding ministry. The world will continue to need to harvest wood; after all, it is a key natural resource for construction, paper production, furnishings, and fabric. If we’re going to harvest timber, we ought to do so in a way that respects and replenishes the valuable resources God has given us. Why not do so while also supporting the ministries you care about? The Christian Timber Reserve employs the best forest management practices to be stewards of God’s creation while using the sales of timber to pay for the spread of the Gospel message.

On this International Day of Forests, see if you can find yourself in the woods. Go experience the wonder and awe God has ingrained in the fibers of the forest.

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