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Earth Day celebrates a chance to love your neighbor

One of our greatest purposes is to love our neighbor as ourselves

Many of us are familiar with the two greatest commandments, as found in Matthew 22:

  • To love God with all our hearts, minds, and strength, and,
  • To love our neighbor as ourselves

While each of us may find unique opportunities to practice these essential commands, they remain universal. And no matter how much we strive to follow them, we can always find ways to pursue them even further.

There are many different ways to embody the call to love thy neighbor. It may look like being the sort of friend you'd want to have. It may look like giving your time to serve people in your church or in your city who are suffering. Loving your neighbor may look like coordinating efforts to help vulnerable populations like refugees, or like doing excellent work at a profession that serves people. It may look like extending forgiveness when forgiving isn’t easy.

All of these actions are expressions of love. And so are the following actions: Learning how to use natural fertilizers rather than chemical products; fasting from meat one day out of the week to conserve natural resources; learning how to sew and repair torn clothes rather than buying new ones; donating a portion of your resources to support tree planting; sending emails and letters to remind your leaders that the health of your ecosystem matters.

These are ways to care for the earth, and ultimately ways to serve our global neighbors.

A community celebrates in Burundi

A community celebrates in Burundi

The environment has a profound impact on people's livelihoods

Sometimes it may feel as though efforts to impact the environment are lost amidst the size of the problem. When we decide to stop using plastic straws, the ocean doesn't turn a deeper shade of blue. The scale of the environment and its challenges make it difficult to comprehend how our actions impact the lives of others.

But that shouldn’t trick us into thinking that our environmental choices don’t affect other people.

The first people to feel the effects of environmental issues are usually the world's most vulnerable populations. Poor, rural communities are largely comprised of farmers. These groups need healthy soil, water, and flourishing plant life in order to feed their families and earn an income. When natural disasters, climate change, drought, or other environmental hardships start to take effect, their lives become increasingly difficult. In the worst cases, famines, food insecurity, and mass migration threaten the heart of these communities.

Tree-planting in Haiti transforms communities.

Tree-planting in Haiti transforms communities.

Caring for the earth is an act of love towards our neighbors

1 Corinthians 16:14 gives us the plainly stated reminder: Do everything in love.

Earth Day is so much more than a day to celebrate the earth as a grand concept. It's more than a chance to applaud our own efforts or choices. It’s an opportunity to be re-inspired to take action, reminded that our actions affect our neighbors near and far.

Actions that directly help the poor don't have to be the end of our efforts. We should also stop to ask ourselves what is causing them harm, and what role we might play in that harm. We must learn how to address the things that hurt our neighbors from their root causes.

In a world where 85 percent of people in poverty rely directly on the health of their land for a living, the environment is one of the biggest factors that contributes to—or takes away from—people’s quality of life. Let’s not forget environmental stewardship as another way we can love our neighbors.

Want to help rural communities become the solution to their environmental problems? Consider becoming a Purpose Partner.

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