Between Saving the Planet and Saving Souls – Part 2

Hartmut Jaeger

At the moment, we’re experiencing new and completely different existential problems that are pushing climate goals to the side. If we’re not firmly anchored in God and His Word, we quickly relativize nobler goals and subordinate them to new problems. What other explanation is there for pacifists suddenly demanding that tanks be delivered to war zones?

Questions of stability and orientation are being asked more and more loudly. What can we rely upon? In his book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Trueman examines the path humanity has taken to its current state, where our perceived identity takes precedence over everything else. He writes: “Prior ages were characterized by a transcendent frame, a belief that this world stood under the authority of a reality that transcended its mere material existence … The fact that third worlds [societies not founded on the sacred] do not build their moral codes on a sacred order renders their cultures profoundly volatile, subject to confusion, and liable to collapse.” Doesn’t that sound like the state of politics today? Ultimately, more and more people are feeling that everything is pointless. All wickedness has its origin in ungodliness.

Jesus tells us to seek first God’s kingdom (Matt 6:33) and speaks of the importance of serving God fully. However, making this our focus doesn’t exempt us from everyday worries. But here is the encouraging part: The Father in heaven provides food and clothing for the plant and animal world. And if He provides for the living things we eat, how much more will He provide for us who have Him as our Father? Then Jesus re-emphasizes that the ungodly have other priorities. He warns against giving everything we have to gain the world, thereby damaging our souls. How does this even benefit a person? He gambles away eternal fellowship with God, relies on fleeting things, and then dies.

People who have God in their lives are primarily seeking Him and His kingdom. This means recognizing that God the Father has dominion over every aspect of life. It means doing what He says. It means walking the path of righteousness that God reveals to us in His Word, and which our Lord Jesus Christ has already walked.

As far as social justice is concerned, it’s striking that Jesus didn’t establish His own political party in this unjust world, to fight against the oppression of the Roman rulers. He lived out and taught justice in the existing environment. If he had tried to improve or change the world, it would have ended in blood and tears. He knows that the problem lies much deeper. The devil is the prince of this world, and the source of many problems is the human heart (Matt 15:19-20).

The well-intentioned will fail in their good ideas because, quite simply, they themselves aren’t good. Attempts to “save the planet” will also fail. We want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but we’re simultaneously destroying the environment mining lithium and cobalt to manufacture batteries. Experts say that the production of an electric car pollutes the environment twice as much as the production of a diesel vehicle, to say nothing of its disposal at the end of its useful life. In order to extract a ton of lithium, 2 million liters of water have to be used (in other words, poisoned). The way I see it, water is the most important resource for the future. We must prevent our water from being permanently polluted, and our forested areas from being cut down to make room for wind turbines. In my view, that would be the most important contribution we could make toward preserving Creation.

You have to wonder how some decisions even get made. How can we explain the unbridled hubris it took to think we could stop climate change? It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:18: “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”

Therefore, our most important task is to point out that every human being needs to have a new heart, a new mind. And this is possible in and through Jesus Christ. That is our mission. Paul summarizes it in 2 Timothy 4:1-5:

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

This is the last challenge we have from Paul concerning our commission. As such, it not only has special significance for Timothy, but also for us as well.

“Be sober-minded” means not going to extremes … keeping to the middle path … disarming our speech … not just complaining about the negative. And don’t stop there: Preach the good old Gospel. Walk trusting in your Lord.

“Endure suffering” means that we have to put up with insults, being misunderstood, opposition, and more. We endure this while praying for the situation, as well as for wisdom in our ministry.

“Do the work of an evangelist” means that we have a clear mandate: to proclaim the Gospel. How much energy has been wasted in the last two years while we were arguing about Covid measures? This pleases God’s enemy, but never the Lord Jesus. We have a mission, and today we’re experiencing a special openness to the Gospel. The principle still applies: Every trial is an opportunity. We need everyone to make use of these new opportunities in times of difficulty. So, let’s focus on our actual mission again, together. That brings honor to our Lord.

“Fulfill your ministry” means not giving up, not abandoning our service to His Highest. Carry out what the Lord has commanded you to do until He returns. With this in mind, let’s stand united and joyful as we fulfill the most beautiful commission in the world: telling the unsaved about the Savior, Jesus Christ, as redeemed sinners ourselves.

God has a plan. It accounts for the fact that there will be a kingdom of peace on this very earth for a thousand years, despite all the environmental destruction. Afterward, this earth will perish. So, it makes sense not to put our primary focus on fleeting things but on what is imperishable: the soul of man.

Jesus says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved … we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:10-13).

This makes it clear that our message is an urgent one. So, let’s do everything we can to show people the way out of their dead-end street. Embracing the ministry of reconciliation that Paul calls us to in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, is our job as rescuers of souls. All things are made new in Christ! Instead of encouraging people to chain themselves to things or resist, we encourage them to be reconciled to God. God Himself paid the price for that possibility, by making His own Son become sin on our behalf. It’s more than we could possibly imagine, and yet, it’s true! This is the message a broken world needs to hear. 

To get back to the point, I’d like to share some excerpts from a moving letter by Franz Kronbeck, which I recently read:

“Dear Greta and all of your followers,

It’s true that the world we’ve left to you really isn’t in the greatest shape. The environment is polluted, and there are wars, natural disasters, poverty, disease, and misery. But believe it or not, it was like 
that when we and your grandparents were your age. It wasn’t much different, even then. Just the same, our efforts aren’t enough for the world and generations to come.

Because the most important resource of all is being senselessly wasted: the meaning of life.

Early in life we snatch your mother from you when you need her. You wake up isolated and distraught when you should have the right to grow up in safety and security, in a family with two parents and siblings … Yes, we’ve failed at the really important things. Now you’re having to worry about your future, but what does your present look like?

You’re spending most of the day in front of a computer. You’re constantly fleeing into a virtual world that’s feeding on you. If you gave up smartphones, tablets, game consoles, you’d soon realize how worthwhile and beautiful the world can be … You’re worrying about the global climate but forgetting what’s really being threatened: your heart! People will steal it from you and plant every kind of impurity in it.

Isn’t it strange? As dreams become more universal, disasters become more personal.

So if you want to save the world, it’s best to start with yourself, where the effect is greatest and lasts longest! Above all, don’t let your faith or hope be taken from you, because without God, nature will perish all on its own.”

Yes, we’re talking about hope. No matter how dark things may seem, we know the light. As hopeless as things may be, we have hope. And no matter how pointless things may seem, we have a chance.

Jürgen Habermas, one of Germany’s most influential philosophers and sociologists of the 20th and 21st centuries, summarizes the dilemma of mankind without Jesus: “When we consider guilt, loneliness, suffering, and death, the human condition is generally hopeless.”

If this world is everything and man is just a biological algorithm, then we truly have no sustainable hope. This is the conclusion that those with an evolutionist worldview must logically arrive at. Refusing to accept that the world came into being through supernatural processes, they want to save it using natural ones. And thus, they’re doomed to failure. Hope is only justifiable when it’s grounded in reality.

Our hope as Christians is different from how it is commonly understood. It isn’t an unknown; it isn’t a pious desire; and it isn’t consolation drawn from better times. It’s reality. German theologian Hans-Joachim Eckstein writes, “What is yet to come is already there, prior to its arrival, in the form of hope.”

For us, hope is one person: Jesus Christ. And it isn’t theoretical. How much stability, confidence, and consolation this living hope gives us becomes particularly clear at a grave. I became aware of this some time ago, when I presided over the burial of a man whom I had never personally met, and whose relatives have no interest in God. I reflected on how I could help them understand the difference between a non-Christian and a Christian. So, I said: 

“Everyone’s life is a journey toward death, that much is dead certain. But as a Christian, my death is a journey toward life, and that’s just as certain.”

That’s why we’re primarily on this path as rescuers. It’s only after this top priority that we responsibly handle the Creation that our Creator has entrusted us with. Grace be with us all. Maranatha!

Midnight Call - 06/2023

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