In a recent post I asked the question, ‘How does it feel to know you are part of God’s plan to save the world?’
This could be meaningless for you, I suppose, if you haven’t yet responded to Christ. Or if you have, but don’t believe that He’s active in the world. Or, it could be taken as a jest.
But what does ‘saving the world’ mean, exactly? It sure seems to mean a lot of different things, depending on whom you ask. Some people think they are saving the world by not eating meat. Others by fighting human trafficking. Still others take up arms. Some are pacifists. What they all have in common is that they are willing to fight for what they believe in. Most of us have a hill we will die on, as the saying goes.
The ones who fight for things we believe in become our heroes: Martin Luther King on one hand, or Malcolm X on the other; the RAF in 1940; today’s culture warriors, either left or right; maybe a soul-winner like Aimee Semple McPherson or Reinhardt Bonnke; perhaps a fictional world-beater like Lara Croft or Frodo Baggins or Hari Seldon.
You undoubtedly have a list of your own.
But when we say ‘saving the world’, it doesn’t actually mean ‘saving the world.’ It means ‘fixing a problem’, a completely different matter. Even the most influential world beaters are limited to one time and one place. The world is changed in a limited way for a time, and then quickly reverts to what it was before: broken and in need of saving again. And again. And again.
When the world is broken it needs saving, not fixing. And that leads to the most important name missing from the list above: Jesus Christ. He is the one and only exception.
Maybe you think that Jesus’ life, death and supposed resurrection didn’t fix anything. The poor and weak are still exploited by the rich and powerful just as they were before Jesus’ time. Natural and economic resources still remain under threat. They are still a source of contention among nations and within societies.
Human beings, individually and collectively, are forever in trouble. This is because we tend to break things. We also love to try fixing things. Yet, no matter how hard we work at it, any victory in the face of trouble is limited and temporary. Does that mean we shouldn’t try? Of course not. But when we limit ourselves to fix ourselves by ourselves we get nowhere.
It’s not about fixing something, or solving a problem. It’s about salvation. Any fixing we do is temporary. But salvation is eternal. That leads me to the belief that the world isn’t broken. It’s desperately lost.
Before I had a relationship with Jesus Christ, I was in Fix-it Mode. I was Mr. Fixit McFixface. I’d dive right in and strive for that best outcome. And, I would usually fail miserably.
So, if the world is lost, not broken, it can be saved. It can be remade. We are needy and desperate beings. As philosopher Karl Barth understatedly put it, we are ‘in distress’, and God is eager to ‘grant…assistance.’ 1
So, for my part, I’ll dig into His handbook and when there’s an instruction I don’t understand, I’ll raise my hand and ask a question.
Meanwhile, I can happily stop trying to fix my friends and family. They aren’t broken. They aren’t projects. They are just needy people like me, who need a little love. And when I love them – I’m doing my part to save the world.
1. Quoted by Eugene Peterson in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, (Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 1980)
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