How do our relationships affect the planet?

How do our relationships affect the planet?

The World Economic Forum (WEF) happened on 20-23 January in Switzerland.

Before you shrug your shoulder with boredom, know that the WEF — like the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris last month — has been a high-level gathering about the sustainable future of our planet.

Last time I checked, we’re all impacted by whether we have a future or not.

Stacks of international leaders in government, business, science and finance covered a huge array of topics at WEF. To get an idea of the kind of stuff that was discussed, explored and implored, check out the Top 10 Biggest Global Challenges list.

Trying to get a grip on the topics covered and information shared at WEF can be daunting — and depressing. Hard to not feel overwhelmed by the state of our world and its very real battle against the forces of unsustainability.

Ancient solution to modern problem

One of the best things about events like WEF is it reminds us that plenty of skilled, passionate people are striving to help our world.

Scanning through their various plans for protecting the planet, though, I didn’t notice any suggestion about being nice to your mum and dad.

No, that’s not a joke.

“Honour your father and your mother” is the fifth of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16). But we often forget that the fifth Commandment doesn’t end at that point. The whole thing reads: “Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

Treating parents with respect and reverence isn’t a call for politeness. Such an attitude leads to positive sustainability in an entire region.

Wait. What? Why would God bless some people in a particular place because they honour parents as he calls them to?

We all can relate

You might feel the 10 Commandments are outdated and only apply to the ancient Israelites who were the initial, direct recipients of them.

But Jesus himself endorsed these Commandments to His followers, including Commandment No. 5 (See Matthew 15:3-7; Also: Matthew 5:17). While Jesus led a movement that didn’t have to adhere religiously to the rules and regulations recorded in the Old Testament’s books, he stood for being devoted to the principles they represent. Loving God and loving your neighbour are what the Commandments boil down to, Jesus said (Matthew 22:37-40). Go and do likewise.

The apostle Paul understood this. When he encouraged children to honour their parents (see Ephesians 6:1-3), Paul quoted the fifth Commandment. He seemed to be reminding Jesus’ followers that when family relationships are sound, sustainability of life results (just like it did for the ancient Israelites).

Oh, but don’t hear me saying that the fifth Commandment is some sort of magical formula for saving the planet. It’s not.

What it is, is a huge pointer to the way God continues to call people to live — loving and valuing Him, His Son and others, more than ourselves. Imagine the impact upon the world if each family — still, the building block of any society — was a harmonious, respectful and considerate unit!

Life in the land we live in has a better hope of longevity, if we relate well with others. Especially starting with those nearest and dearest to us. Why? Because if we’re all looking out for each other, we’re no longer looking to bring each other down as we each try to get ahead.

Hope for a more sustainable environment would rise in a culture that is not being destroyed by the conflict between individual ambitions.

Good place to start

Yes, many of us have terrible relationships with our parents and our children. Yes, many parents have not or do not behave in ways that deserve respect. Yes, putting an end to global warming is not the promised outcome of showing respect to mum and dad. But, a good way to go about trying to protect our planet is to start with our intimate relationships — and how they impact the world around us.

Ben McEachen



1 thought on “How do our relationships affect the planet?”

  1. Good family units are great, but they also run the risk of becoming insular, and worsening climate change. Powerful families worry about their other powerful family members, and as long as they are ok, ignore other families.
    Hence Jesus’ powerful correctives: “Call no-one father” and “Whoever does the will of God is my mother and sister and brother.”
    You are right that Jesus (in Matthew anyway) upholds care and respect for parents, and in John that he calls John to care for his mother, but overwhelmingly he undermines the biological family, replacing it instead with a family of disciples.

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