Friday, November 18, 2011

What if?

We love to have our board members write a blog post for us every once in a while. We are so grateful for each of our board members! Today you will get to read a little bit of Alyssa's thoughts on widow and orphan care. Thanks Alyssa!

I think one of the most effective ways to care for widows and orphans is to take better care of the environment. A little over a year ago, I was praying in my back yard when I was convicted of my flippancy toward the environment. I honestly don’t remember which natural disaster had just occurred, but there had been a series of tsunamis and earthquakes in other parts of the world and I was praying for the suffering. While praying, it hit me that most scientists would hold my actions responsible for these very disasters. You see, scientists attribute the frequency of famines and natural disasters in the 21st century to climate change. Most of them believe that these changes are caused by human activity. I know they could be wrong; there are certainly dissenters who say that our behavior isn’t responsible. But what if the majority is right? I wondered. If there’s even a chance that they’re right, and my choices are connected to the disasters, I have absolutely no room for flippancy, because kids in Kechene are suffering.

So in this blog post, I’d like to us consider Jesus’ living Word to us on environmentalism. We’re often tempted to assume that it’s not really a priority to him, because it wasn’t his focus on the earth. But for the next 5 minutes, I’d ask that we reconsider.

There are many things Jesus never speaks to, directly, on which we’re confident we know his opinion. Slavery is one. It most certainly existed during his time, but try to think of a time when Jesus directly addressed it. He frequently spoke of love and we believe he would have certainly opposed it. But he never addressed it. We rightly make determinations all the time about Jesus’ priorities based on what we know of Jesus, not because there’s historical record of him teaching on that particular issue.

What, according to Jesus, was the greatest commandment? And the second? And who is my neighbor? People in lesser developed countries are suffering and dying because of environmental degradation at much higher rates than those in the developed world. When water gets polluted, wealthy Americans get reverse osmosis systems and poor Haitians get cholera. When droughts cause the price of grain to rise, we all suffer. For Americans who typically spend 15% of their income on food, they may loose their homes, and even have to move in with family members. Ethiopians who spend 95% of their income on food starve.

Jesus commissioned us to love. Discernment tells us how how. 1 Chronicles describes the men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do. What do we understand about our times? How do we follow Jesus’ command to love in 2011? How are our times different from Jesus’ own? Well, the earth wasn’t in danger when Jesus’ feet walked its dusty roads. There were only 170 million people living on earth when he was born. Now there are 7 billion. And those 170 million people didn’t burn fossil fuels, either, which is the main contributor to greenhouse gasses and climate change. We do. It makes complete sense to me that the Earth’s systems have limits. Everything in this world has limits. My budget has limits. My body has limits. We have finite resources. We live in a finite world. The earth is a delicate system that must be kept in balance. An incredibly resilient system, but a system, nonetheless. Jesus lived in this same world, they just weren’t anywhere close to hitting its limits. We are.

How would Jesus respond? What does Jesus’ command to love mean in this context? Theologians talk describe God’s action of self-limiting as kenosis. When Jesus was born in human flesh, Phillippians 2 says that he “emptied himself”. Not only did he empty himself at his birth, but 33 years later he limited himself, again, by not employing his power and limiting his rights as a human being. He chose this course of self-limitation in order that we might have abundant life. Is a student above his teacher? A slave above his master? Can we cling to more rights than our Lord? Yet there are people in the world for whom there is decreasing space because the world has finite resources. Kids in Kechene have decreasing space. They are suffering the greatest impacts, yet contributing least to the problems. North Americans use way more than their fair share. While we were still needy, God sent Jesus to limit himself, that we might have life. Can we do anything else for the vulnerable among us?

If you would agree that Jesus’ love would have us limit some of our own freedom for the sake of our poorer neighbors, you may feel overwhelmed because the need is so great. And so complex. This is true. I am with you. But in this blog all I’m asking is that we allow ourselves to consider a connection between our choices and human suffering, and for those already convinced of a connection, I’m asking that we repent. Perhaps before reading this blog you had never thought about the connection between ecological degradation and poverty. I certainly didn’t until someone made me aware of it. But now we do. And if you’re like me and you need to study more before being convinced, I implore you to do so. Remember what I said earlier- if there’s even a chance that the scientists are right about humans contributing to the climate change responsible for famines and natural disasters, how can we not change course? Choose to follow through and do whatever studying you need to, because you actually care to know more. In this blog, I commend us to care.


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