It’s been a warm summer here in Michigan. Fortunately, we’ve been spared the excessive temperatures experienced by other parts of the U.S. Nevertheless, there are more above 90-degree days than in the past, and this number is expected to continue rising.

And our freshwater sources seem to be more than enough for our needs. The Great Lakes offer a stark contrast to the shrinking Lake Mead Reservoir that farmers and 20 Million residents of Arizona, California, and Nevada count on for fresh water.

Overall, the U.S. is the largest contributor to the emissions that warm our planet. But unfortunately, we’ve lagged behind Europe in implementing changes to slow climate change. Even after signing the 2015 Paris Agreement together with 195 other nations that set goals for limiting global warming by cutting emissions. Writing for the Economic Forum, Kate Abnett notes that current policies are insufficient to meet even the more modest goals set by the agreement.

Why is this so hard for us?

To start with, fossil fuel companies collectively spend approximately $200 Million on lobbying efforts, often to prevent legislation aimed at reducing our dependence. This is on top of massive advertising expenditures spent to discredit climate change science over the past few decades. Lately, the major oil companies changed tactics to positioning themselves as climate-change leaders and claiming green as their favorite color while continuing efforts to curtail progress.

Meanwhile, during a week of extreme temperatures and devastating fires in Southern Europe, Pope Francis called on world leaders to heed the Earth’s “chorus of cries of anguish” stemming from climate change.

According to NASA, “Some changes (such as droughts, wildfires, and extreme rainfall) are happening faster than scientists previously assessed.” Climate change is coming faster than anticipated, and the fallout is turning out to be even worse than imagined.

Admittedly, I’m hoping that a few political figures who oppose legislation protecting our environment finally feel the effects of climate change themselves. But honestly, I don’t want any of us to suffer. We’re all in this together, and it will take tremendous cooperation for us to save our planet from eventual extinction.

I’m weary of watching planes dropping fire-fighting chemicals to slow down the destruction caused by forest fires. While I’m aware that forest fires occur naturally, research shows that the vast majority are caused by humans. Unfortunately, we can’t stop them all. However, in her article, Abnett reminds us, “Climate change increases hot and dry conditions that help fires spread faster, burn longer and rage more intensely.”

This is our future with climate change: less fresh water, more intense weather, increased flooding, and more forest fires destroy property and lives. It’s time to put partisan politics in check and focus on solving climate change.

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia finally announced that he would support legislation to invest in energy alternatives. Legislation that moves the U.S. towards upholding our agreement to reduce emissions. While healthy skepticism is understandable, there is some hope ahead. And more hope is possible if enough of us get to the voting booth in November to support candidates willing to make the hard decisions needed to tackle climate change.

But how is this even possible? It takes cooperation to go up against wealthy companies and the investors and politicians who depend on the massive profits from our over-consumption of fossil fuels. The answer is grace. Before you roll your eyes, let me explain why grace is important.

Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers write that “infusing discussions with kindness and respect for no reason other than to uphold the dignity of our fellow humans” is key to making progress. And this is difficult for all of us.

While they fundamentally disagree on which political party is the better choice, Sarah and Beth choose to focus on where they have agreement. They write:

We want the earth to be habitable for future generations. We want to reduce the number and devastation of natural disasters to the extent possible. We want people to be employed in good jobs that provide high wages and long-term security. We want to enjoy modern conveniences and preserve aspects of our culture that are important to us. All these desires can exist together…

And they figured out that the only way to get from disagreement to policy is by showing grace to one another. But notice that grace, by definition, is not something we earn. Instead, grace is a gift we offer to each other that recognizes “the unproven, unverifiable worthiness in every person we encounter.”

Grace is a central theme in scripture. For example, we’re told that God saves us by grace alone and that God’s grace is a divine gift. We don’t and can’t earn salvation. Instead, God chooses to reconcile with us whenever we’re ready to accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. Nor is salvation a reward for the good things we’ve done. Therefore, we cannot take credit for earning God’s favor (Ephesians 7:8-9).

God saved you by grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God… For we are God’s masterpiece.
Ephesians 7:8-10

So we need to offer grace in our conversations around important issues. Even issues like climate change that we know threaten our very existence. And we also need to extend grace to persons we suspect are motivated by power and greed or simply uninformed about the magnitude of the problem.

On the other hand, grace does not mean that we’re asked to eliminate healthy boundaries. Unfortunately, there will always be a handful of individuals with whom productive and helpful conversations are simply impossible. We know them by the soundbites they spout when asked about their plans to address climate change.

It’s comforting to know that scripture reminds us that God’s purpose in Jesus Christ was to save the world. But we each have a personal choice to make (John 3:16). And once we make that choice and do not fake our choice, our ability to show grace to others multiplies. However, grace seems impossible to offer when left on our own. And this is what happens when we pretend to accept Christ but secretly hold on to our bias.

We are God’s masterpiece. God creates us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things God planned for us. (Ephesians 7:10).

Suppose you’re still unsure about where you stand with God. In that case, it will be easier to find the answer if you’re intentionally looking. And one place has proven to show us the answer is worship.

You can join us each Sunday in person or online by clicking the button on our website’s homepage – Click here to watch. This button takes you to our YouTube channel. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.

A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to connect@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.

Pastor Tommy

 

Content for this series is based in part on:

Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth A. Silvers. I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2019.

“The Effects of Climate Change.” © NASA, July 22, 2022. Retrieved from: link

Kate Abnett. “Explainer: How climate change drives heatwaves and wildfires.” © World Economic Forum & Reuters, Jul 25, 2022. Retrieved from: link