Faith in action
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Over January I had the opportunity to preach a short sermon series entitled God is Friendship, based on a book by my friend Brian Edgar. In week one, I spoke about friendship with God, looking at John 15. In week two, I spoke about friendship within the church and its value as an end in itself; in loving others we become more like God. In week three, I talked about loving enemies.
One of the passages for week three was Matthew 5, where Jesus encourages us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors, noting that in the west, most of the “enemies” we think about are due to a false narrative (for example, in Australia it is often “illegal immigrants” or so-called “queue jumpers”, who are instead quite often people fleeing genuine persecution). One of the curious things about Matthew 5:43-48 is that Jesus doesn’t appeal to his coming atoning work on the cross, but on weather and climate to demonstrate why we should behave like this to our enemies: everyone experiences rain and sunshine.
We all share one climate system, and we all look to sun to make us happy and rain to feed us, for be you city dweller or farmer, all of our food is nourished by rain and sunshine. This provision, regardless of our ethnicity, politics, religion, gender, sexuality or any other defining feature, is said to be a good gift from God. It is his common grace to us.
This is the sentiment picked up by the Australian organisation Common Grace, that is:
United for the common good. Together, finding common ground. Sharing in common grace. And living the beauty, generosity and justice, fully revealed in Jesus, that God extends to all.
Passionately interested in justice, Common Grace is calling Christians in Australia, and indeed around the world to take the threat of climate change seriously, for it is a matter of Christian discipleship to exercise responsible dominion or right stewardship, a matter of justice to protect those who will suffer the most and yet contribute the least to climate disruption. Already they have raised money to provide solar panels for our Prime Minister’s residence in Sydney. Now, they are calling Christians to mark Earth Hour.
I was once accused on my Ethos Environment blog of syncretism for suggesting that Christians mark Earth Hour. Another associate wanted to celebrate energy hour by turning on all of his appliances. Both ways of thinking are misguided. As Jesus reminds us, it is God’s Earth, and his provision is for all. It is not being “unequally yoked” to engage with others for our shared climate; indeed it is arrogant to do otherwise if the Father is willing to bring rain on the righteous (in risk of being self-righteous) and the unrighteous (those God is seeking to save).
Likewise, if the Israelites were told not to collect manna on the Sabbath, but instead rest on his provision, surely one hour without power will not kill us, but instead be our energy Sabbath. Of course this symbolic act is not an end in itself. If symbols bother you I assume you don’t baptise, celebrate communion, exchange rings in marriage, etc. But the very act of switching off the power is to remind us of our need to switch on to God’s power to save people from sin, evil, injustice, and save the Earth from us. Divine justice demands we change our ways; God’s Spirit turns us into agents of justice.
None of this denies the value of coal, natural gas or petroleum, which have delivered great benefits to society. Yet it is time to say goodbye to fossil fuels. Once, there may have been a responsible way of burning them, now the only responsible thing to do is leave them in the ground. Clean energy is necessary to lift many out of poverty who will mark Earth Hour without electricity, as they mark every other day. To want to see an end to fossil fuels means a commitment to help the developing world leapfrog the mistakes of the past into a cleaner future.
Consider switching off for the hour, and gathering together to worship the creator and redeemer God “unplugged”. In doing so, you join people of all walks of life in wanting a better future, avoiding the worst of climate disruption. You will also be bearing witness to God’s common grace in wanting to provide a safe climate for all.
- Dr Mick Pope, Phd in Meterology, Masters in Theology
Host an event or join one at www.earthhour.org.au/commongrace
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