Leaders from 150 nations joined some 40,000 delegates in Paris on Monday morning for the 2015 World Climate Summit. As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters with regards to the conference and its goals, “A political moment like this may not come again. We have never faced such a test. But neither have we encountered such great opportunity.” The Summit’s leaders hope to formulate regulations that will institute legally binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions for nations around the world.
A similar agreement was passed in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997. It mandated that industrialized nations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to five percent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. However, a number of key nations, including the United States which is the second largest producer of greenhouse emissions, chose not to abide by it. To complicate matters, China and India, the first and third largest emitters respectively among nations, were exempt at the time. That is why the current summit is focused on passing binding legislation that cannot be so easily disregarded by those countries that can do the most to address the problem.
Fortunately, the collective commitment to embracing change and the understanding of our need to do so seems to be greater this time. As President Obama stated at the conference, “What should give us hope that this is a turning point, that this is the moment we finally determined we would save our planet, is the fact that our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and a growing realization that it is within our power to do something about it.”
The leaders from other nations expressed similar sentiments. Russian President Vladimir Putin described climate change as “one of the greatest threats humanity is facing” while French President Francois Hollande stated that “Never have the stakes been so high because this is about the future of the planet, the future of life.”
China’s President, Xi Jinping, was perhaps a bit less eager than the others to fully embrace the types of changes sought by the Summit. He described the conference as “not a finish line, but a new starting point” before going on to caution that “countries should be allowed to seek their own solutions, according to their national interest.” His wariness is understandable given the scope of the changes likely required should such a binding covenant pass, but he still seemed willing to engage in the discussions and work with the other leaders to come to the best agreement possible.
Ultimately, it would seem that most of the world’s leading nations recognize the problem even if they are not quite sure how to address it—and that is a very crucial first step. Moreover, the global nature of the dilemma has only increased the recognition that all nations must have a role in coming up with a global answer. As a result, countries that are at odds in so many other political, social, and military arenas are trying to set those differences aside in the pursuit of a common goal. Hopefully, by recognizing their shared need for a more stable climate, they can work together in order to do what is necessary.
As Christians, we should be able to do something similar when differences arise in our communities of faith. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. The horror stories from church business meetings, denominational disputes, and other arenas where we seem to forget that what goes on in church doesn’t stay in church are so numerous that it would be comical if it were not so detrimental to the kingdom.
Just before he was arrested, Jesus prayed that all those who would believe in him would be one just as he was one with the Father so that “the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:20-23).
As Christians, we are part of the same global family. God has chosen to make each of us his sons and daughters through Christ (Galatians 4:4-7). With Thanksgiving still a recent memory, chances are many of us won’t have to think too hard to recognize that disagreements among family members are largely inevitable. However, it is how we act in the midst of those disagreements that most concerns God.
When Jesus prayed for unity, he wasn’t praying for uniformity. He knew there would be times that we thought differently on certain issues because each of us has been made differently and given a unique personality by our heavenly Father. The unity he wanted for us and the unity that will show the world just how real and powerful his presence is in our lives can shine brightest in the midst of disagreement so long as we remember what we have in common. However, the reverse is also true, and the darkness that emanates from the walls of a dysfunctional and divided church can send an equally powerful and pervasive message to the unbelieving world around us.
So the next time disagreements threaten the unity of your church family, remember the prayer of our Lord and savior and take your problems to the common ground of the cross. Differences among believers are inevitable, but the division that so often follows is not. What would Jesus say about your church today?