On Friday, thousands of people all over the world, many of them school children skipping class, broke out into the streets with homemade placards and infectious chants in abundance.
Not wishing to sound too pessimistic about the protests, it does appear to me that for most, this is nothing more than getting caught up in hype and hysteria.
This attitude toward the environment strikes me as a distinctly modern phenomenon. Could you imagine this happening even five years ago? All of a sudden, almost overnight, there is frenzy and panic and a sense of desperation. Chatting with some people at my church recently, someone shared with me how their friends are becoming increasingly worried and anxious about the state of the planet.
What might have brought about this panic and fear? Well, I wonder if it can be summed up with the phrase ‘Extinction Rebellion’, which is the name of the eco concern group I’m sure you’re all aware of. And it perfectly sums up the root of this new found attitude towards climate change.
Instead of merely harming the planet, people now think that the end of mankind is looming. And they are scared. Scared of extinction!
And so, like the middle age man who, blissfully ignorant until his last GP checkup, suddenly gives up red meat, alcohol and takes up jogging, the world is acting like it’s been given a death sentence, subject to a drastic lifestyle change.
So, how can Christians respond to this recent phenomenon? Two things:
Do not panic
Firstly, we need to keep level heads ourselves and not get caught up in the hype. We must realise that whilst the planet is suffering, it won’t be completely destroyed and mankind won’t be wiped out – until Jesus comes again. Jesus says that he will return and will return in order to interact with people – think Mark 8:38. There are plenty of other verses you could look at to suggest that when Christ returns, people will be around to see it! It’s safe to say that the earth will not have choked to death on carbon emission before this thing happens. That’s what the Bible teaches. Mankind is in no danger of extinction. Which is going to be a powerful teaching for us as this mindset grows. It will help us not to panic, not to fear or to worry. But it must not be a licence to neglect our duty of care toward the planet.
Join in the Effort
And so, secondly, we should, as much as seems sensible to us, get alongside our fellow humans and begin stewarding the planet better. Recycle more, walk more, eat a bit less meat and get on board with some of the other trendy lifestyle changes that people are getting involved with. We should do this because, firstly, those changes probably will make a difference, and that’s good to do. Secondly, doing these things will help our non-Christian friends to feel better. It will speak to their anxieties and show them that we care about humanity and the planet. It will help us to bond with them on this common concern and will demonstrate that we have a common goal in stewarding the planet. This will likely help to ease this corporate burden of anxiety felt amongst so many at this time, until they are able to hope in Christ.
Demonstrate a New Hope
If we can achieve this camaraderie and unity of mind on this worthy cause, I think we will then be well placed to demonstrate to the world where true hope comes from – the gospel.
Christian stewardship of the planet is a reflection of the care God shows to us, rather than a panicked reaction to the fear of extinction. When others see this vital difference, we are then able to talk about the God who seeks to save a dying people through Jesus, and our attempts to save a dying planet can be viewed as a picture of this greater reality.
Even if we are unable to match the passion of our environmentalist peers, we are still able to speak into their experience. We live distinctive lives as Christians. Often very different from the world around us. If we are unable or unwilling (which isn’t necessarily a faulty attitude) to match the commitment of the eco-worriers, we must do so by a deep love for people, driven by a knowledge of God’s love for us, that demonstrates humans are more valuable than even the planet. Our message must be that of the gospel, that it is of no value that man gain the whole world at the expense of his soul Mark 8:36. Because, in reality, the best thing we can do for people is help them prepare to die. But that can only be done if we can demonstrate for the world a new hope.