Think for a moment before getting into this article. If you thought back to all the ads, all the conversations and all the pleas you have heard just in the last week, how many different endings could you think of for the title of this article? “Saving the planet” would surely be one that you would think of. What about “Saving the country?” or “Saving the church?” I’ve heard “Saving the children” and “Saving the schools” several times recently. Also, “Saving the family” and “Saving the marriage” have been among the ones often used. It may have been a little further back but most of us have heard “Saving the whales” and “Saving the eagles.” Almost every time we use the phrase it relates to now trying to save something that people have either destroyed in some way or at least have allowed to go in the wrong direction for a lengthy time.
It is interesting how our attitudes change on almost everyone of these things from one time to another. I can easily remember when people thought nothing of saving the planet or the environment because we thought it was beyond destroying. While we as youth went swimming and fishing in every river, creek or stream close enough to us to get there, the thought of it ever becoming polluted never entered our minds. People threw things out of the windows of their cars as they rode along on a regular basis and thought nothing of it. I remember riding with an older man from our home in Vernon, Alabama to Birmingham and him rolling down his window and throwing trash out the window making the comment, “I feel like it is helpful to throw trash out, since it gives people a job that might not have one otherwise.” Of course that was years before there were signs about polluting or keeping America clean.
Do you ever wonder why we take responsibility for saving everything? Can you imagine the animals having a meeting to discuss how they can save the planet or even the different species of animals that are becoming extinct? Look at these words from the very first chapter of the Bible. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” From the beginning God gave humans the responsibility to fill the earth, subdue it and have dominion over it. When chapter two tells of God putting man in the Garden of Eden it was for him to “dress and keep it.”
Think of how many of the things we are trying to save that wouldn’t need to be saved if we gave them the proper care to begin with. The earth wouldn’t need saving from pollution if we didn’t pollute it to begin with. Schools and family wouldn’t need saving if we did what we should do with them all along. How many of the problems faced in schools really go back to the breakdown of the family? I think of how often we at church encourage people to become foster parents or adopt children that need a home and I believe it is truly one of the greatest things that can be done. But I also think that if we worked on teaching boys and girls that becoming a parent is a lifetime responsibility it might do more to solve the problem over the long haul.
Cures for every sickness and problem in the world are extremely important. I pray for a cure for cancer, heart disease, mental illness and addiction. But I know at the same time that if we could prevent such problems before they begin it would be worth even more. How many of the ills of society really have their source in the sins of the people who make up the society? Perhaps that is the reason the Bible puts the emphasis on one kind of saving. It is the saving of people from their sinful and lost condition. Paul declared, “Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I’m the very worst.” There may never have been another follower of Christ as sold on the idea of saving others from sin as Paul. When he thought about his life he said he was free from all people, yet he made himself the servant of all that he might gain more. “To the Jew I became as a Jew that I might win the Jew. To those under the law, I became as one under the law that I might gain those under the law (though not being myself under the law). To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under het law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” His passion for winning others to God and saving them from sin had its roots in his own understanding that when it comes to sinners, I’m the worst of them all. As long as we minimize sin in our life we aren’t that concerned about saving others from the guilt and trauma of sin.
Why wasn’t Paul committed to saving the whales, the eagles or the planet? Because the ultimate problem for all people and all the universe is the problem of sin in humans. I am interested in the environment, the schools, the homes, our country and all kinds of other things. But I know beyond a doubt you can’t save the institutions or the environment without first reaching people and changing them from the inside out. Our hearts have been polluted by sin and we need a Savior who can save, not just our soul but our entire being. So, let’s put one title far about all the others. SAVING THE PERSON!