When a significant issue becomes politicised, it creates polarisation. That is what has occurred with climate change. People hear those two words and view them through the filter of their political leanings. But what if we could take the heat out of global warming? The good news is we can, simply by understanding all the complexities of climate change through compassionate eyes.

Compassion: The Heart of God

Jesus emphasised compassion as the primary attribute of God’s nature. He said, “Be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36). In other words, this is what God is like, now imitate him.

Compassion comes from the Hebrew word for “womb” and means “to feel the feelings of others.” Compassion is “to feel the suffering of another deeply and be moved by that suffering to act.” So, let’s look at climate change through the eyes of compassion and take the heat out of global warming!

Compassion for the Planet

We live on a beautiful planet, and there is nowhere else to go (take a moment to process!). We need to look after and have compassion for the earth.

The first expression of human impact on earth’s climate was in 1896. A few decades later, amateur scientist Guy Stewart Callendar linked global warming to CO2 emissions. And here we are 75 years later, and governments are finally waking up to the impact humans have on the planet. It is not too late to act, but we are running out of time.

More evidence of this flashes across our screens every day. From unprecedented fires to unusual weather, extreme heat, to exceptional flooding. For example, a few weeks ago, the mercury soared to a record 49.7 degrees in the village of Lytton, Canada. The following day the town was destroyed by fire.

According to BBC News, the number of days reaching 50 degrees and more has doubled since 1980. Natural disasters are increasing. It’s been reported that “nearly 1 in 3 Americans live in a county hit by a weather disaster in the past three months.”

Compassion for the People

People are affected by climate change already, and that will only increase unless we act. Sadly, developing nations are the most affected. And developed countries are the biggest polluters because of our never-ending desire for more, but at what price?

Wealthy nations need compassion for developing countries and their people. “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” said John Donne in the seventeenth century. The English poet and Anglican cleric was correct. Humanity is intricately woven together. Compassion for one is compassion for all.

The impact of climate change on countries like Haiti displaces people and compels them to seek safety and welfare elsewhere. According to Time Magazine, Haiti is just one of many countries that will face the most severe consequences of climate change.

Unless we address the root causes, developed nations will be inundated with climate refugees. And it is the poorest people in developing countries that will be hardest hit and least able to get help. Compassion will compel us to act.

Compassion for Affected Communities

Any plan to address climate change must consider the communities that currently rely on coal, gas, and associated industries. We cannot blithely forge ahead with little or no regard for the people whose livelihood depends on these industries. While we stand with those suffering from the impacts of climate change, we also have compassion for people working in industries who stand to lose their occupations.

With pressure from investors and international agreements, many mining towns and regions have a limited lifespan. Coal is on the way out, and other cleaner sources of renewable energy are taking over. It’s reported that coal mining is amongst the most rapidly declining industries in the world.

Compassion will cause us to work closely with affected regions to ensure they don’t become ghost towns in the years to come. Rather than a “gas-led recovery” out of the pandemic, Australia’s government should direct post-COVID spending to renewables. “Stimulus programs backing clean energy as a path out of recession would create nearly three times as many jobs for every dollar spent on fossil fuel developments,” according to a financial consultancy analysis by Ernst & Young.

Right now, we are leaving people in these communities to an uncertain future. Compassion will not abandon them; it will work creatively with each community and plan for the future NOW!

Governments must consult with the affected communities, facilitate exit strategies from coal and gas, and support them in making the most of Australia’s exceptional natural advantages. To do less is to abandon them to an uncertain and dismal future. Together, they should determine the best plan for each community and develop specific goals. What industries and activities are best suited to each area? Wine, tourism, horse studs, solar, heat pumps, wind farms, and so on. Different locations will offer distinct opportunities.

To be compassionate towards these communities involved in the extraction, use, and export of coal and gas supports a fair, planned, and sustained transition to more diversified local economies. But unless the federal government acts to support renewable energy, the Australian economy will be left behind by competitors.

Compassion for Future Generations

What sort of world are we leaving for today’s youth? And what will the world be like in generations to come? A new study published by Forbes Magazine showed that “even moderate climate change” would lead “to cascading effects of accelerated sea level rise and species loss.” The world’s environment is carefully and intricately balanced. If we don’t rise to the challenge of climate change, the future looks bleak.

Does the greatest commandment, love your neighbour as yourself, only apply to people today? Or are we to love our future neighbours too? We cannot simply wash our hands of an unfolding human tragedy. In the name of the one who calls us to love one another, it is time Christians be part of this human struggle for the future of humanity.

In the lead up to the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow in November,

Bayside Church is encouraging people who feel passionate about this issue to contact their Federal MP. Click here for more information.

Someone asked me a few days ago, “Where is God in the midst of all the suffering from the bushfires currently ravaging Australia?” It’s a good question and reflects the most frequently asked question about the Christian faith, which goes something like this: “If God is real, why do we see so much suffering and evil in the world?” I mean, if God is really that powerful, really sovereign, really in control, then why doesn’t He do something about the pain and suffering of people? There are several things to be said in answer to this question.

Suffering Caused by Humans

Firstly, it needs to be realised that people cause the vast majority of suffering on planet Earth. We have the free will to make choices. Some people choose well, others don’t. The poor decisions some people make invariably impact others, causing pain and suffering. So far this bushfire season, 24 people have been charged for arson although most of the fires were not deliberately started.

In past studies, criminologists have estimated that 85% of wildfires are caused by humans, with the remaining 15% of fires usually the result of lightning strikes. Human causes of bushfires include arson, along with non-malicious activities. Negligent behaviour of leaving a campfire smouldering, dropped cigarettes and matches, arcing from overhead powerlines, accidental ignition in the course of agricultural clearing, grinding and welding activities, sparks from machinery, and controlled burn escapes are all causes of bushfires.

Climate change is also a contributing factor. Australia’s climate has warmed by more than one degree Celsius over the past century, causing an increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves and droughts which dry out the undergrowth and create conditions that increase the risk of bushfires. In turn, the bushfires release a massive amount of carbon dioxide, which raise Australia’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating the problems associated with global warming.

At the beginning of time, God gave the responsibility of governing and controlling creation to human beings (Genesis 1:28). So, are we doing a good job? Sometimes “yes” and sometimes “no.”

Bono writes, “Extreme poverty has been cut in half in the last 20 years, and the facts show that we can get it to virtually zero within a generation – but only if we act.” That’s right, good people taking charge can end poverty in the next few decades. So instead of blaming God for suffering, we can all make this world a better place.

The same can be said about other significant issues of caring for the Earth and its people. Reducing pollution, caring for the environment, conservation, praying, and work for peace and justice amongst people and nations, economic justice and equality between rich and poor, male and female; racial equality for people of marginalised races; protection for refugees and asylum seekers and so on.

These are not merely political issues; they are significant matters that should concern all of us who pray for God’s kingdom to come, his will to be done on Earth as it is in heaven.

Suffering Caused by Natural Elements

But this still doesn’t account for the suffering that is NOT caused by people. What about natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, tsunamis, avalanches, extreme weather events, and 15% of bushfires that are not the fault of humans. While I don’t pretend to have all the answers to these complex scientific occurrences, it should be noted that the very things we enjoy on this planet can also harm us.

I love the trees. I appreciate their colour against a blue sky; I love their shade on warm days, and I breathe the oxygen they create. Trees play a role in the formation of rain and wind. Strong winds can cause large tree limbs to break. Sometimes these fall on people and cause injury and death.

Earthquakes are caused when tectonic plates move. If the Earth were solid, rather than being made up of plates that move, life, as we know it could never have survived. Earthquakes and volcanoes have been responsible for creating countries (such as Japan) and the stunning mountain ranges we enjoy. People can ski on many of these mountains. Sometimes avalanches happen, causing injury and death. Some people love climbing mountains. Occasionally they die trying.

Volcanoes occur when magma erupts through a weakness in the Earth’s crust (invariably as a result of an earthquake). Eruptions wouldn’t happen if the Earth were colder. But if this were the case, the cooling would remove the magnetic shield around Earth that protects the planet from cosmic radiation. The result would be out of control global warming, an increase in cancer-causing solar rays, and extensive solar winds that would dry out rivers, lakes, and seas. There goes your fishing, boating and surfing.

Floods cause havoc. They destroy homes, livestock, and people’s lives. They also create an explosion of new plant and animal life. Floods rejuvenate river systems, fill dams, soak agricultural land to prepare it for bumper crops, recharge groundwater systems, fill wetlands, and increase fish production because of nutrients supplied by the land during flooding. The gravity that keeps us on the planet also enables fatal falls; the fire that warms also burns; the water in which we swim can even drown.

Bushfires, as devastating as they are to human and animal life, are also necessary for the rejuvenation of vegetation. In fact, some plants actually need heat and smoke to release their seeds.

So, where is God in the bushfire’s crisis? God is actually right in the midst of suffering, hurting people. There’s a video doing the rounds on social media at present highlighting people who are praying. One lady said, “I don’t pray to the Lord very often but yesterday I never prayed so hard in all my life.” A guy said, “The sirens started up and at that point I was praying – and I was an atheist for 25 years.” Where was God? Right there!

Tragedies happen, and the suffering of people should never be downplayed. During this current crisis, we have an incredible opportunity to come together, to help one another, to be our best selves. Now is not the time for criticism and protests. We’ll have plenty of time to review what could have and should have been done once this crisis is over. Right now, let’s help those in need.

If you’d like to help, you can give a Tax-Deductible donation to the Bayside Foundation. Please specify your gift for “Bushfire Relief”.



It’s a fact of modern life that the major issues we face often get hijacked by politics.  Just the mention of refugees, climate change, Aboriginal recognition and the like instantly polarise our minds either to the Left or the Right.  We see these and other issues through the lens of our political persuasion and then act, or don’t act, accordingly.  But this is not the way Christian people should respond.  The lens we are to look through is the life and teachings of Jesus rather than any political ideology.

Let’s take the environment as an example. If I talk about loving and caring for planet earth, I get labelled a greenie – a person who campaigns for the protection of the environment.  For some in the Christian world, being a greenie is seen as a negative thing.  Climate change is viewed as a modern conspiracy and anyone passionate about looking after planet earth is not concentrating on the essential stuff on which Christians should be focusing. I disagree.

In Mark 16, Jesus taught his followers to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”  The Greek word for creation is ktisis which refers to the “act or product of creation” [1] in which God made the universe, the Earth and all things (animate and inanimate) out of nothing (Lat. ex nihilo).  Much of modern Christianity has viewed the gospel as a message aimed at saving people from their sins.  As vitally important as this is, the gospel is a far broader and grander message.  Its relevance is for all creation, everything that God made; all of nature and everything he gave people dominion over. [2]

When God gave human beings dominion he gave us the burden of responsibility to look after his creation.  Many years ago, when Christie and I were heading away for a few weeks, some friends asked if they could look after our house while we were gone.  As they didn’t have their own home, we decided to bless them with our home and give them the responsibility of caring for it.  Sadly, they didn’t do a good job.  They invited people around for a party; they left rubbish everywhere and so we didn’t give them another chance to look after our home because they’d not lived up to the responsibility we had entrusted to them.

The same goes for Planet Earth; the home God has given us the charge to look after.  The expression of the gospel for all creation means that our faith in Jesus will motivate us to reduce our footprint on the earth – to lessen harmful emissions, to recycle as much rubbish as possible, to conserve precious resources, to look after the wonders of nature and to protect endangered species. On that last point, it was recently revealed that Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world.  “At least 30 native mammals have become extinct since European settlement — 14 in just the past 50 years” [3] – animals God created that no longer exist.

I understand that caring for the environment makes some Christians nervous because they’re concerned they may become guilty of worshipping and serving created things rather than the Creator. [4] Others have a theology that teaches one day God will make a new Earth so why should we bother to look after this one?  While I certainly embrace the hope of new heavens and a new earth, it’s faulty logic that leads to an uncaring attitude towards the current creation. If you have an old car but hope to buy a new one in the future, you wouldn’t trash the old one now because it’s the only one you have.  You need to look after it and make it last as long as possible.  It’s the same with our care for the planet.

All people on Earth have a God-given responsibility to care for it, maintain it and repair it.  It’s not about being a greenie; it’s about loving God and his creation and allowing our passion for the gospel to influence every part of our lives.


[1] Strong’s concordance

[2] (Genesis 1:26, 28)

[3] Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife boss Ian Darbyshire


[4] Romans 1:25


One of the major problems I see in the world today is the politicising of the issues that face us.  Even Christian people get caught in this trap.  Let me give you four examples:

  • Climate change
  • Asylum seekers
  • Conservation
  • Racial and gender equality

When you read those words, it’s quite likely that you perceived them through your political worldview.  For example, when you see the words, “climate change,” some of you went “right,” and others leaned “left” in your thinking.  If you tend “right” politically you may see other issues as much more important than climate change – or maybe you think it’s a big con and not a real issue at all.  If you are more left or “green” politically, you will see climate change as a major issue and maybe even “the great moral challenge of our generation” to quote former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

It’s the same with other issues.  On asylum seekers, some will go “right” while others will lean “left” and so on.  But for followers of Jesus a higher ethos comes into play because “our citizenship is in heaven” and, on earth, we are ambassadors of Christ who are to represent our eternal homeland in the here and now.  That’s why Jesus encouraged His followers (in The Lord’s Prayer) to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10).  The focus of the entire Lord’s Prayer is what happens on earth.  Jesus taught His people to pray for God’s kingdom to come and for His will to be done, on earth.  God cares for His creation and He wants His people to care for it too.

The aforementioned is the filter Jesus’ followers are to use when considering their response and actions to life’s big issues.  Rather than making our reaction a political one, we are called to think with a heavenly mindset.  Take climate change as an example.  Instead of making this a political issue that leans to the right or left, why not make it a Biblical issue that reflects our care of God’s creation?  Let me ask you a question, “Do you think it is a worthy goal for humans to pump less pollution into the atmosphere?”  Whatever your political persuasion I’m sure you answered “yes”.  If God has given humanity dominion (rule; control) of the Earth (Genesis 1:28) then surely a Christian would take that responsibility seriously and do all they can to care for the planet God has given us?

Conservation then, is no longer the domain of the Greens but rather the responsibility of everyone.  The ethical use and protection of valuable resources, such as trees, minerals, wildlife and water, protecting their sources, and recycling, is something I do because I take God’s gift seriously, not because I vote for a particular political party.

Some of my early teaching as a Christian was dominated by a certain view of the “end times” that taught Jesus was returning at any moment, the world would end, and God would make a new one – so it wasn’t worth looking after this one.  Imagine if we used this logic in our daily lives?  One day I’m going to buy a new car and so I might as well trash the second-hand one I currently drive!  I have an old house now, but one day I want a new one, so I think I’ll light a fire on the kitchen floor and cook on it!  That sounds ridiculous – and it is – but this is how some Christians act toward the Earth of which God has given us care.

Praying “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” means that Christians will pray and work for peace and justice among all peoples and nations.  We strive for economic justice and equality between rich and poor, male and female; racial equality for people of marginalised communities; and protection for refugees and asylum seekers (and yes, I want secure borders, but that doesn’t give us the right to mistreat some of the world’s most vulnerable people).

These are not merely political issues that don’t affect my faith and me.  They are significant matters that should concern all of us who pray for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Jesus taught his followers to live this way day-to-day.  In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16).  Jesus’ people are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  Treating this world, and the people in it, with kindness, justice, love, mercy, and goodness reflects God’s nature and becomes a powerful force that attracts others to Him.  That’s the way He calls His people to live.