This past weekend, as I am writing this, I read an article in my local newspaper about recycling electronic waste. (That is, the physical electronic waste, not the stuff that you can see on electronic equipment. That could be another article entirely.) The article said that electronic waste is a growing problem for many landfills because of its size and the dangerous compounds found within it. Computer monitors, for instance, in our landfills contaminate the soil with lead and other heavy metals. Part of the problem with electronic waste is that it is almost entirely recyclable. Roughly 98% of all electronic waste—televisions, videocassette recorders, microwave ovens, and computers—can be recovered and recycled. The lead, gold, and silver that become dangerous in landfills can be extracted. Wires can be melted down and used for making new wire components. There are companies that take the plastic cases of computers and monitors, grind them up, and turn them into plastic playground materials. And, of course, many computers can be refurbished and donated to people in poorer areas of Central America or Africa.
Now, what is my purpose in bringing this up in this context? First of all, I am doing what some see as a Christian duty to preserve the earth. If I can remind just a few people of the value of recycling these items I have managed to save a little bit of the earth.
My main intent, though, is to introduce a more profound (I hope) thought. God is a master at recycling. He can take a wasted life and recycle not 98% but 100% of the raw material.
When God created man, he saw that his creation was good. Some time after that, however, the man he created violated the one commandment he had been given. Sin came into the earth, and with sin came death.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. (Rom 5:12-14)
Unrecycled, we are like that electronic waste. We are useless to ourselves, and toxic to others. We are taking up space in a landfill, even though we are fully recyclable. Sin shorts out our circuit boards; self-centeredness causes our operating system to crash. On our own we are virtually valueless.
God sees our value, however. Because we are made in his likeness, he knows our component parts. “But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (Lk 12:7) God sees in us the potential for recycling.
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Rom 6:3-6)
When God recycles us, we are buried, like in a landfill. Unlike the waste, however, he raises us out of that burial to be a new creation. What will we be? Maybe we will be playground equipment. Maybe we will be sent to Central America as a new computer. Maybe our old friends won’t even recognize us. “Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot.” (1 Pet 4:3-4) What we become is not up to us. The microwave does not tell the recycler what he will be. What we will be, though, is valuable, not only to God but also to ourselves and our neighbors.
If we are Christians we are not junk. We have been recycled.