Written with COP26 and the climate emergency in mind, Margot Hodson’s reflection on the sort of people we need to be applies equally well to the current Covid-19 crisis.
Many years ago, I was given a beautiful, dark blue skirt from northern India. It was a mirror skirt, with silver thread woven through it – and I loved it and wore it almost all the time! Over the years it became a mottled mauve skirt, and began to look worn and faded. I wished I had fixed the colour when I first had it. I have since discovered that colour fixing is so easy – providing you have salt.
Salt is amazing, and dye-fixing is just one of its qualities: it is good for preserving and for improving flavour. With bread, it strengthens a loaf’s texture as it rises; it helps to bind food together and makes colour more vivid. Traditionally it was used for healing, and it’s still good for treating wounds. We can eat too much of course, but it is also vital for our health.
As we ask what Christians can do in the run-up to the COP26 climate summit, we should remember that Jesus calls us to be salt (Matthew 5:13-16). This means that all those qualities of preserving, flavouring, holding things together, making communities brighter and more enduring, and especially bringing healing, all make up our calling as we approach this.
Jesus also calls us to be light. There is tremendous anxiety among those concerned for the environment, and the term ‘climate grief’ is being used to describe the feelings of many who mourn the damage that humans have already done to the natural world and fear that the very worst will happen with runaway climate change.
As Christians, we have hope that one day creation will be renewed and restored. Being light means that something of that future hope can be made visible in the present – not in a way that denies the challenges of the present, where hope may be fading, nor ‘other-worldly’, simply looking to the future, and not engaging with the present. Being light means that our future hope gives us resilience to live now – whatever happens and however tough it gets. As things get darker, so even the smallest light becomes more visible and can bring hope.
So, in our local and online communities, work environments, networks and organisations, let us be salt and light to an increasingly hurting world.
Margot Hodson is Director of Theology and Education at The John Ray Initiative and a vicar in Oxfordshire. She is on the board of A Rocha UK and regularly writes and speaks about environment from a Christian perspective.
With thanks to Sarah Wiggins, Tearfund Action Team.