The climate crisis affects all of us. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report warned us that humanity has caused unprecedented and irreversible change to the climate. This begs the question, what could God be saying to the church and our involvement in bringing about climate justice?

Global leaders, politicians, activists and scientists gathered at climate summit COP26 last year in Glasgow, taking decisive action on the fate of humanity and our planet. But what is the prophetic role of the church when it comes to our environment? If the church is going to play an active prophetic role in climate conversations, we must seek to educate and mobilise the whole body. In essence, the collective wisdom of the whole church is required to tackle the climate crisis.

Finding a collective wisdom

Some parts of the church are currently more involved in engaging in the climate conversation than others. But if we understand climate concerns as a missional imperative that requires whole-life disciples, then we need ecumenical collaboration around climate concerns. Firstly, this will mean developing a biblical framework on climate justice.

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The jubilee concept in the Old Testament is a helpful theological framework and very significant in the light of the sabbath rest needed for our planet. In the Old Testament, God instituted among the Israelites a sabbatical rest for the community and the land. The community of Israel were supposed to cultivate the land for six years and then allow it to rest in the seventh year by not cultivating it at all (see Leviticus 25). This principle allowed for an ecological recovery to the land and their agricultural system.

We rest our bodies… but will we rest our land?

If part of the climate crisis we are facing is that we have overused earth’s resources, we need a theological framework that can help us cultivate a sustainable lifestyle to combat overconsumption. The threefold sabbath principle can help, which is:

  • first, that God himself rested after His creation, modelling for us the idea that rest is foundational;
  • second, God commanded humanity to rest, reminding us that we have limits and need to take a step back to reflect and to reset (I think the pandemic, despite its uncomfortableness, has given humanity something of an opportunity to slow down, reflect and reset); and
  • last, that God encouraged the children of Israel to till the land for six years and in the seventh to allow it to fallow, that is, rest.

In summary, God wants humanity and the land to rest so that they can be restored, re-energised and replenish. Imagine what change that could bring to our consumeristic world today.

Living out a collective wisdom

If the church can unite around this collective wisdom, we begin to see this issue not just as a political one, but a wholeheartedly biblical one too.

From here, we can prophetically imagine and begin to participate in the missional imperative of climate justice, and partner with God in His restoration. The Church of England is one of the parts of the body of Christ that has long been engaging in the climate discourse. Their Five Marks of Mission spells out the missional imperative around this issue. The fifth Mark of Mission states, To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth”. Some of the charismatic church networks understand this missional imperative through a form of kingdom theology that engages in holistic mission.

Whole-life discipleship

Lastly, we need to ensure that our church collaborations around climate justice are rooted in whole-life discipleship. This is important so that climate justice is not seen as an add-on to our faith but an outworking of what it means to follow Jesus. This will mean educating church members through sermons, Bible study series, Sunday school materials, worship songs and liturgy on the need for climate justice. The whole church must view climate justice as an essential part of God’s mission. This will in turn help the whole church to begin to shape its practices in the light of caring for God’s creation.

In conclusion, the church has a prophetic role to play when it comes to climate justice. As you consider your own spiritual rest, how can this principle extend to your whole life discipleship? As the Holy Spirit invites us to participate in the restoration of creation, what might He be prompting you to do today to champion our planet?

The church has a prophetic role to play when it comes to climate justice.