What About Climate Change?

The Netflix documentary ‘Our Planet’, has helped re-energise another generation of climate change warriors. Along with the formation of Extinction Rebellion and the prolific use of social media, it’s not surprising that “single-use” was the most popular word of 2018 . But how should Christians respond to the climate change debate? 

It saddens me having to preface this but firstly ignorance and denial cannot be our position. Climate change is happening regardless of how unhappy we are with the direction media or political extremists are taking the conversation. We as Christians must engage with the climate change debate with the limitless compassion of Christ and the gospel clarity that defines us as his people. Where there is pain, suffering, injustice and decay, all symptoms of a fallen world, we as Christians are commanded to speak into the mess and point people towards the gospel (Matt 5:16, John 17:15-18). Climate change along with the cultural climate we’re in, provides an opportunity to showcase our God-given role as responsible stewards and perform this duty with Christ’s kingdom in mind. 

However, the term ‘stewardship’ is a complex one to unravel as the concept is never explicitly explained in Scripture. It’s absence doesn’t deny it’s relevance just requires more careful thinking. 

In Genesis 1 God places Adam and Eve in a Garden named Eden. He commands them to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens”. Here, God establishes humanity to be divinely appointed to rule over creation. So where can we infer stewardship from and how does this inform our decisions today in the heat of the climate change debate? I wish to argue that stewardship is the process by which we implement our dominion. Although God has made us “a little lower than the heavenly beings” and given “dominion over the works of your hands”, we are to enact this rulership with wise, servant-hearted integrity. Firstly, Dominion was given as a human mandate at the start of creation. It is not solely the church’s responsibility nor should individual Christian’s take this upon themselves. Our ‘go forth and multiply’ mandate is given in Matthew 28, to bring new life into the Kingdom. Secondly, we must understand how sin has affected this role of dominion. Exploitation has become synonymous with Dominion yet that is not how it was intended. Systems of abuse, cycles of decay and entire industries built on the suffering of others are not in harmony of a Christian agenda and therefore we should step away from such practices. As “mirrors or carriers of Christ to others” we cannot employ methods of harm and abuse towards the environment, instead Christ-like Justice and Dominion must be exercised over all of Creation. Therefore, thirdly, we are to imitate Christ in how we exercise our Dominion over creation. If “for by him all things were created” then Christ is King over the melting glaciers, empty forests and dying wildlife and groans with his creation as it bears the scars of the fall. He is sovereign, therefore, we don’t despair yet he is our example and look how he feeds the birds and dresses the lilies. Who are we to despise creation if this is how our King cares for it? 

Limitless Compassion

Changes in the global environment are, if not to ourselves yet, reaching crisis level. Lives have been lost, species made extinct and vast swaths of natural habitat destroyed. Our society rightly is appalled by such horrors and we can respond with compassion to their upset. Listening, therefore, is crucial. Be informed of what is happening and be ready to change. If your waste disposal is putting wildlife at risk, reduce your plastic pollution. It may require humility to accept advice from those you don’t whole-heartedly agree with. Being informed and responding graciously with the facts put in front of us, save us from the stigma of Christians being uninterested or ignorant of the world around them. With a clear grasp of the conversation surrounding climate change, we then have a stronger position to lead the fight to protect our planet. Surely having Christian environmentalists, scientists, social activists, educators, campaigners, politicians at the forefront of this discussion will be beneficial for everyone. Not only can we imitate Christ in servant-hearted dominion but we can also by explaining to people why we do what we do, point them to the full message of the gospel.

Gospel Clarity

The panic that fuels much of the Extinction Rebellion propaganda, appears to echo apocalyptic prophecy. However the End Times will look, the Christian can rest assured that God is entirely in control and mankind will not be able to predict when the end of the earth will be. If we begin to despair and lose our faith in God, we have lost our gospel clarity. Similarly, we must be wary of falling into incorrect thinking that says we can truly save the world. Having gospel clarity about who saves the world and God as creator, should affect how we interact with the world, will keep us from doubting God’s sovereignty or developing a saviour complex. Therefore, we should “stir one another up to love and good works”, not only pointing each other towards our eternal hope but also encouraging each other to be more active in our love, respect and appreciation of God’s world. 

Finally, as we reorganise what we mean by gospel clarity, let’s recognise how our fellow humans are being affected by climate change. Natural disasters strip entire communities of their livelihood, overpopulation that leads to not enough food being distributed where it’s needed, drought, famine, floods, wars over natural resources – these are all events that will affect our planet’s most vulnerable people groups first. Forget saving the turtles by banning plastic straws, or reducing your carbon footprint by cycling to work – people’s lives are at risk because of climate change. A radical care for people is an imperative for the Christian primarily because they are made by God and are valuable in their essence but, secondly because their souls are eternal. How we adapt our lifestyles, our treatment of animals, engagement in social justice, must all be centred around a Biblical perspective of ourselves and those around us. The finite details of how that will look depending on our context and stage of life but servant-hearted dominion will seek to rescue humanity from danger and point them towards their saviour.

On a more practical side one may ask questions regarding zero-waste living and how this equates with Christian hospitality, how does our faith inform our diet (aka should we all be vegan?), can adoption be an avenue Christians take in reference to overpopulation and how, if there is a class bias within this whole debate, are Christians perpetuating this? At least I think those may be interesting! If you have any thoughts, please comment below or if you disagree with everything I’ve said, still comment! 

Further references

https://arocha.org.uk/

https://www.plantwise.org/about/ 

https://ruthvalerio.net/ 

https://www.ourplanet.com/en/ 

https://www.tearfund.org/ 

https://justloveuk.com/about-us/vision

https://www.thejusticeconference.co.uk/

https://www.thegoodtrade.com/

https://knowtheorigin.com/blogs/ktotalks

https://www.desmogblog.com/2014/03/05/pentagon-climate-change-impacts-threat-multipliers-could-enable-terrorism 

Fear and Faith: Some thoughts on the General Election

I think we can all agree elections and election campaigning are extremely divisive. Many worry about the outcome of the election. Meanwhile the politicians sling insults at each other, sharing untruthful and misleading memes and videos to try and win more support. They declaim the other side as evil and wrong, ‘we are the only ones that are right’. Love and godliness in any shape or form is conspicuous by its absence, as is any heart-felt calling out to God.

It’s almost impossible not to be involved in it in some shape or form. So in such a divisive and mean-spirited environment how should Christians act?

The Christian’s Calling

Our main calling in life is to glorify God and to spread the message of the gospel of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this calling includes involvement in politics, other times it doesn’t. Yes it is important that Christians play an active role in proceedings and, where possible, act as a force for good in shaping our future as a country. But I believe we must be very careful in all our discussions and debates not to do anything to stir up hatred, anger, or otherwise bring dishonour to the name of Jesus Christ. We must not act like a bull in a china shop with all guns blazing; instead we should be gentle and considerate, especially when others disagree with our views. We should disagree well and amicably.

Above all else, above journalists, politicians and prime ministers, above our political allegiances we have an allegiance to the Almighty Sovereign God who takes a meaningful and merciful interest in all the goings-on in the world; indeed, God is in complete control. Whilst His people continue to cry out to Him, He will not leave us alone to wrack and ruin, indeed God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5). This fact should unify us. I know Christians on all sides of the political spectrum (examples of these include the Conservative Christian Fellowship and Christians on the Left), but we don’t let our politics define us or divide us, instead we have unity in Christ.

We should not put our faith in any political leader however good they might seem, even though may talk a lot of good, promise a lot of things and perhaps have a profession of faith. At the end of the day they will let us down, they are human and all human beings fail. Their promises will most likely be proven empty and hollow. Instead we should put all our faith in our great and Almighty God, that He might be glorified even through such a discordant environment. He will never let us down, ever. The Bible, the ultimate authority on life, says quite simply:

“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. [But] blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.” (Psalm 146:3-4).

Pray

We are called to pray for all leaders and for all those in positions of authority, whatever we might personally think about them, their supporters or their policies. The Bible says:

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people –for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

We should pray for guidance and wisdom for the party leaders and other leading figures. We should pray for a government that brings glory to God’s name by being peaceful, loving, merciful, just, free, honourable and humble and preserving freedom of religion, so that we can freely proclaim our Saviour to the world.

Prime ministers, parties and individuals come and go. The Bible says:

“All men are like grass,
and all the glory of man is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord endures for ever.” (1 Peter 2:4).

Where we would despair and fear we should know that God is in control and seek to feel and witness His loving arms surrounding us. We shouldn’t expect much from this election, we shouldn’t worry about how things might turn out, we should never fear man and all his plans, rather more fear and trust God (Proverbs 29:25, Matthew 10:28). We should vote (it’s our democratic right and duty after all), and we should use our conscience and prayerfully consider everything (The Christian Institute offer some helpful resources) before casting our vote. Then, whatever happens, we should just remember Psalm 20:7:

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

 

Looking Heavenwards

As Christians we are merely passing through this world, on towards a better place.  When we reach Heaven there won’t be any politics, just glory, and that is something we can look forward to.

No matter who is in power or who wins, they can’t fix everything in the world  because it’s a fallen world, broken to its core.  No party will make this world better, it won’t really make a big difference (although people can quite easily mess it up even more!). What will make a difference is how we live our lives. We should fix our eyes on Jesus and love our neighbour as ourselves.  If we want to make this world a better place, then we must love and act as Jesus acted, rather than having fanciful notions that our political heroes can perfect the world. We already have a hero, a champion who has changed the world, with the biggest revolution ever; His name is Jesus Christ!

Too many times do we put our hope and faith in man to achieve things that they will fail at. We must put our faith and hope in God, and in God alone.

 

Reflection on the US Election: No need to worry!

It has been a week since the people of America democratically voted in Donald Trump to become their 45th President of the United States.  Was I disappointed?  Undoubtedly!  Did I panic? No!  In this short blog post I aim to show you that there is no need to worry about such things!

Once the news broke, social media seem to almost explode. People were posting that it was the end of the world; that anyone who voted Trump was a bigot, a racist, sexist etc.…and hate and snobbery were unleashed in one massive go.  It was crazy, Christians and non-Christians were panicking, were making assumptions of people they had never met and were frankly terrified.  Now, rather than being all high and mighty about your political stand point, take time to listen to others, tackle the issue from their stand point.  Trump may not be my chosen candidate, but there is no need to worry.

So why do we not need to worry? Well I heard a sermon on that talked a bit about this recently.  The answer is quite straight forward.  As Christians, we do not need to fear or worry because God is sovereign.  He is a far bigger power than any president.  Sometimes in life we wonder why things don’t go our way or feel overcome by the difficulties in life.  But remember God is bigger than any of those problems.  Maybe he is using them to rebuild you as a better follower of Jesus, to trust him more, to grow in all of his ways.  God cannot be shocked, he knew Trump would be president; he is in and out of time!  He knows what will happen, so give your worry to him, rest in him. He says countless times in the Bible ‘Do not Fear’, we have nothing to fear if we are one of his children!  Those words were important for the early church and they are important today in political uncertainty.  And if you were a Clinton supporter then do not worry that even Christians voted for Trump.  They have their reasons, do not be so quick to judge, but know that God is above all of them!

We do not need to worry because we can make an impact on society by loving our neighbour. For some reason, we feel that only the big politicians can change society, that they can make all things good.  We put way to much trust into a single politician.  If you liked Obama, well he had problems, if you supported Clinton; she had a load of problems, just as many as Trump does.  Putting our entire trust and faith in politics is dangerous and messy.  As Christians, we can make a difference by spreading the word, by living out the word and by showing love.  No not a wishy washy kind of love, by a love that wants to see the poor and needy helped, a love that reaches to those who we disagree with, a love that keeps us balanced, and a love that shines for all to see.  So before you start ranting on Facebook or social media, take a step back, look to God, know that he is in control, that you have nothing to fear, not even death.  So start listening to those around you, whoever they may be; do not be so quick to judge, take time to understand even if they do not with you.

This is not just for politics. We need not worry about anything.  Of course that is easier said than done, and we are but human, but when worry and troubles find you, take a step back and know God is sovereign over all.  Whether this is with school work, essays, stress at work, family troubles, remember that all things work together for our good, and that Jesus is with you every step of the way.

For us, our focus point should always be Jesus and the cross. When we get lost in the troubles of the world, look up to Jesus because he knows your pain and fear.   Our focus point is never a political ideology or secondary doctrinal issues.  Our focus is Jesus and only him.  So when the worries of this world take their hold, remember Jesus and just how awesome he is.

I was just about to post, when this song by Chris Tomlin came to mind, so let me end with it, ‘Fear not’.  Rather apt no?

In Christ, and in love

Michael