I'm often asked "what is the most important thing in life?" That is an easy answer: "to know and love the Lord Jesus, and to put your faith and trust in him alone." "Obviously," is often the response I get, "but what next?"
Increasingly I have come to the view that caring for God's creation is the most significant and important thing we can do and be thinking about. Let me explain why, alongside why it will be our focus for the month of October.
Firstly, it is because it is a Biblical issue. Right at the very beginning of the Bible, God's first ever instruction to humanity was about caring for and being responsible for His creation (a timely reminder that it isn't our planet). It is a narrative that runs throughout the Bible, with the consequences for failing to do so clearly seen as well. Jesus doesn't encourage us just to see the birds in the air but to really note and study them and learn from creation. So if as Christians we are to take the Bible seriously (which I think we must) then we cannot ignore the Bible's instructions on caring for God's earth. It must be part of who we are and what we must be doing as Biblical Christians.
Secondly it is a justice issue. When we consider who is most impacted by the changes coming about from climate change we discover that it is the poorest and most vulnerable communities on the planet that are suffering the most. Tear Fund's video is just one example of how some of the poorest communities are affected. For most of us in Western Europe the conversation is about the type of car we have or the number of flying holidays we have or whether we recycle enough of our waste. Yet for so many communities around the world it is about losing their homes, having nothing to eat and losing crops and livestock year after year. Of course with the devastating floods in Belgium and Germany this year the crisis has hit Western Europe in a new way. Yet it is not because it is on our doorsteps (literally) that we must be concerned. As Christians we have a duty of care for the poor and marginalised, and need to fight for their well-being and an equal chance at life and health, a home and a livelihood.
Thirdly, it is an issue of relevance to the culture we live in. A recent survey revealed that 92% of teenagers were concerned about climate change and wanted to see a difference made to the world we inhabit. Greta Thunberg has kept the issue at the forefront of every major gathering of world leaders. How can the church expect to engage with current and future generations if we are not involved and concerned about what they care deeply about. Christians should be leading the debate, as after all it is a Biblical mandate, yet the church is running after those who have taken up the issue that should have been theirs to highlight. Where is our credibility as Biblical Christians if we pass by on the other side?
Finally, it is an evangelistic issue. Many of those who have worked these last decades in try to care for the earth have been drawn to new age religions and a worship of Gaia or Mother Earth. Yet Romans is clear we are to worship God and not created things. Yet caring for creation gives us one of our greatest evangelistic opportunities. So many of our young people are searching, so many care deeply for the future of the world. If we work alongside them in caring for creation, then it is one simple step to help them see beyond the wonder of creation to the Creator himself. It was what Jesus did, and we can do so too.
So those are some of the reasons why it will be our focus in October. We're not going to think about the science - I'll leave that to the experts. What we will do is think through how we as Christians understand what the Bible has to say about this, the importance of understanding the spiritual aspects of it also, so that we can live in a way and interact with others in a way that is honouring to God and makes a real difference for the good to the world in which we and our children and grandchildren will live.