You thought that we had enough wars, hunger, and diseases. You thought that the current refugee crisis was big. You thought that natural disasters were too severe already.
Well, you were wrong.
The recent IPCC report cannot be taken lightly. It is based on 6,000 scientific studies and has received input from 40,000 peer-reviews. This is the scientific consensus. It’s time we stop getting distracted by climate change deniers and face the facts.
And the facts are that we are heading right into enormous environmental disasters that will kill and hurt hundreds of millions of people.
There is still time to change course, but it has to be done immediately. The modern, Western lifestyle is doomed. Either we choose to abandon it, or we will be forced to do so when the climate crisis hits. Many are confused as they are not sure how they ought to live in order to reduce their ecological impact on others.
What if I told you that we as Christians have had the solution to this problem for 2,000 years? What if I told you that if we simply lived like the early Christians, there would be no climate change?
Of course, we have good reasons to live like the early Christians independently of the fact that it helps us prevent worldwide catastrophes. Jesus told his disciples to teach their disciples (us) to follow the commands he gave them. As Paul said, ”Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” We’re called to be apostolic copy-cats.
But it surely is no let-down that the apostolic lifestyle is a key to beating climate change. So why is this? Let me give you four examples:
The early Christians emphasized simplicity and contentment. Jesus warned against storing treasures on earth (Mt 6:19) and wanted his disciples to live simply like birds and lilies (Lk 12:22-33). Paul writes:
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. (1 Tim 6:7-9)
If we truly are content with the simple things, abstaining from luxury and wealth, we would not shop the earth to its destruction. This alone would stop climate change. But there’s more!
2. Sharing Homes and Possessions
The early Christians had everything in common so that nobody was rich and nobody was poor (Acts 2:44-45). They emphasized hospitality (Hebr 13:2) and shared housing with fellow believers who were on the road (Acts 9:43). This communal living is super effective for reducing our climate impact.
I stayed eight months in a Jesus Fellowship community in England not too long ago, and there my friend Mike Farrant told me that if all the people who lived together in their communities had been living on their own instead, their costs had been at least 30 % higher. When we live together and share our stuff, we need less and we use less.
3. Simple Food
Just to be clear: I’m not saying that we need to live like the early Christians in every single way, always wearing sandals and speaking Aramaic. I think it’s good to be culturally relevant in order to reach our surroundings with the Gospel. But, some contemporary cultural norms are objectively worse than what the early Christians were used to. Take meat. Today, at least here in the West, people eat meat and dairy projects with almost every single meal.
To an early Christian, that would be crazy. While they didn’t view meat eating as sinful, they rarely ate meat because meat was expensive and not very resource-effective. Bread and wine were much more common than lamb or goat on an early Christian’s table.
This is how most people have been eating for most of world history. Going back to this diet, with meat as an occasional luxury rather than staple food, will drastically reduce your climate impact since meat and dairy production accounts for 14 % of global greenhouse gas emissions.
4. Spiritual Awakening
The early Christians were very charismatic, experiencing loads of signs and wonders and sharing the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. Their passion was God and they were shining with his light and fire. Now, what has this to do with environmentalism? Everything!
Environmental lawyer Gus Speth has famously said:
“I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”
When people come into a true, dynamic and living relationship with God, experiencing his power and love, they will ultimately have less interest in consumerism, greed and living pointless lives on other’s expense.
Yes, I know that there are charismatic Christians who aren’t interested in creation care. But I don’t think their problem is that the Holy Spirit has influence over their lives, I think their problem is that the Holy Spirit hasn’t influence over all their lives. When he does, they will be more interested in saving lives than destroying them.
In short: Peter, Paul, Mary Magdalene and the rest are not just examples of how we should believe. They give us examples of how to live, examples that we desperately need today. Let’s learn from them and teach others to do the same!