The other day, I was talking about watching for opportunities to witness about Jesus. This may have been one of them.
“It’s the oil, folks!”
The guy on the bike directed the remark at no one in particular, as he rode past us on the Alexandra Bridge, linking Gatineau, Québec, and Ottawa.
The temperature hasn’t climbed much past -20 Celsius (-4 F) since Christmas Day, and other parts of North America are in a similar deep freeze, so the cyclist was doomspeaking about climate change, linking the unusually cold weather to the storied “addiction to oil” as many people do (except, maybe, the President of the United States).
The cyclist’s tone was one of triumph — “See? I told you so!”, delighting to be proven right. It’s worth remembering at this point that really, our use of oil is not what’s evil, in and of itself.
“The Lord alone led [Jacob],
And there was no foreign god with him.
He made him ride in the heights of the earth,
That he might eat the produce of the field.
He made him draw honey from the rock
and oil from the flinty rock.”
— Deuteronomy 32:12-13
That’s from Moses’ song, giving praise to God after the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea. I added the emphasis: what is “oil from flinty rock” but petroleum?
So it’s not really about oil: we’re supposed to have oil, but we’ve gotten greedy. (Besides, I defy the cyclist to show that he was not using petroleum-based products any place on his person.)
I digress. The “opportunity” was to point out that throughout the Bible, there are predictions of the very climate upheaval that we’re seeing today. Jesus Himself tells us that we will see “famines, pestilences and earthquakes in diverse places” (Matthew 24:7) and the “abomination of desolation” (Matthew 24:15). Indeed, when His disciples ask Him for the signs of His return, He lists those and interconnects them with other things, like wars, terrorism, incurable diseases and lawlessness — “the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).
And while our cyclist friend is essentially looking backwards (unless he was trying to wave a magic wand and undo centuries of oil consumption and its effects), Jesus lets us know what comes next.
That’s kinda hard to put into a quick, pithy retort to someone zooming past at 15-20 mph.
But as we close out this year of 2017, which has had more than its share of Jesus’ predictions come to pass — leaving one to say, “What do You mean, this is the beginning of sorrows?” (Matthew 24:8) — let’s remember that instead of beating ourselves or others up over past indiscretions with the planet God has given us and our failure to be His branch managers (Genesis 2:15), we need to get ready. We need to encourage others, learn to love unconditionally and point people towards Jesus with our words and actions.
Debates over climate change (which the President of the United States gleefully entered this morning), oil consumption or anything else are rabbit trails that we need to avoid in order to do what Jesus told us to do. We can’t “save” the planet in anymore than we are fully responsible for the problems in the first place. Nor do we simply roll over and wait for the Rapture.
What we can do to respond to the changes we see around us is to recognize the wakeup call: to keep in the forefront of our minds that,
“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land.”
— 2 Chronicles 7:14
Who knows what 2018 will bring? What we do know is that we have Jesus, and the Word of God, standing with us, steadfast, true and unchanging.