At the core of the biblical message is love.
In Matthew 22 Jesus says, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’.
Human beings are built for relationships, called to love God and neighbour. Within those relationships of love we find meaning and belonging; the bonds form our value systems, and the communities shape us and guide what we prioritise. Hence the saying – ‘You are what you love’. I would go further and say, you fight for what you love, you defend and nurture what you love. So, not only do we thrive in a community, we are motivated by the love of that community.
At the Hook lecture 2021, Dr Carmody Grey said that the environmental movement has made a crucial misstep in communicating the urgency of the climate crisis through facts and statistics, because ‘human beings are more creatures of love than truth’.
This is not bad; it’s just human nature. And in what is called the ‘formation of desire’, we learn not just through information, but habit and community. This formation is what faith traditions specialise in. The way in which we learn that we ought to be generous, kind and forgiving through our communities and our church, this is where we form values, reminds Dr Grey in her lecture.
The idea of love is stretched even further in 1 Corinthians 13. We gain absolutely nothing if we use our God-given gifts and sacrificially give to others, but do not have love. If then, we can endeavour to first love the Creator God and praise him for his creation, then protecting nature and advocating for the restoration of ecosystems becomes a natural next step. It becomes important to us because we love nature and it’s creator, and therefore we orient our actions towards sustaining nature. In the bible, love sits at the centre of all things. And it’s in love (Christ) and out of love (action) that we must face the twin climate and biodiversity crises.
Taking action can often feel hard and overwhelming. It can be disheartening and it can feel hopeless. But loving nature by spending time in beautiful, green spaces and taking time to rest in it, enjoying it, and thanking our Creator God for it, can be so restorative and remind us of why we fight to protect it. As the passage in 1 Corinthians 13 concludes: ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’
This reflection was written by A Rocha UK’s Executive Assistant and Researcher, Hannah Eves.