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Loving Your Neighbour In a Warming World


Loving Your Neighbour In a Warming World

Mick Pope

If you’ve ever attended a Surrender conference, chances are you have a thing about justice, an itch or even an all-consuming passion to see the world put right. In the Old Testament, the ideas of justice and righteousness mean right judgment and right living. Justice can refer to rights of the poor (Isaiah 10:2). In Jeremiah 9:24 we read that God delights in these things.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is about justice. Its idea of the neighbour has always meant to stretch us spiritually, emotionally and imaginatively. Reaching out to be a good neighbour to enemies is what God did in Christ. Often we focus on the care aspect of the parable. We need to bind up the wounds of those who suffer, and the church has typically been very good at this.

Applied to climate change, we need to continue to press the government to increase its foreign aid. To adapt to a changing climate requires money for infrastructure, for resettlement, to import food and so on. Likewise, such a hard attitude to the trickle of genuine refugees now does not bode well for the coming flood of climate migrants. People are hurting now from climate change, both domestically and internationally. There is and will be many wounds to bind. As the Pope notes in his recent encyclical, the poor always suffer worst:

“Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters.”

But! Have you ever asked yourself why there were bandits in the first century? The word for bandit refers to one who works in a gang or band and likely means guerrillas or freedom fighters who attacked Romans and their Jewish collaborators – think Barabbas. Banditry has been a common characteristic of peasant societies that are oppressed by exterior forces. In first century Israel this oppression was due to taxes by the temple aristocracy, the Romans and pressure from absentee landlords. Debt and loan defaults forced people off their lands into day labouring jobs or banditry.

While we support an economic and political system that warms our shared home, we are the bandits, not the Good Samaritans. Aid is not enough in a warming world. The repentance of individual hearts is a miracle, but to change the world means changing systems. While cutting our own consumption of goods, meat and energy is good, more is needed. Pushing for a price on carbon, divesting from fossil fuels, protecting the Reef and farming land: all of these things are neighbour love of neighbour near, far and in future generations. And all of this is just and right living.

The sermon on which this blog is based can be found on iTunes: Sunday AM – Essendon Baptist Community Church: Missio Dei – The Bible and the Church 1 June.