This post is going to be more along the lines of wondering out loud, so it might be scattered. Or, depending on one's perspective, more scattered than usual.
It was sparked by a post in another blog, in terms of what Christians should do here and now for social justice, environmentalism and so on. One thing that has always intrigued me about a fanatical approach to the Second Coming. This approach would be summed up in people instigating wars to fulfill a prophecy that has to happen before Jesus comes back, or people very gleeful over the thought of Jesus tossing millions into hell without anyone feeling a sense of compassion. One could say this is an exaggeration, but in a later book in the Left Behind series where Jesus is dividing up the sheep and the goats, such a thing does happen. It involves the human who was helping the anti-Christ, and Jesus orders to angels to drag this man to the lake of fire. The man starts screaming for mercy, and all the 'sheep' that are watching don't have a problem with it. I did, because I started to picture the scene, and then tried to reconcile it with the Jesus from the Gospels. This man knew he was wrong at this point, that he had been on the losing side and was about to be tortured for an eternity.
But I digress. And on a side note, I haven't really read the Left Behind series. I started the first book out of curiosity, but the lack of writing ability alone deterred me. I peeked into the book that detailed Jesus actually here, which was the scene above. It was repulsive, especially if this book is read by children.
And I'm still digressing, and shall circle around my point now. One thing that's always bothered me about an approach where efforts don't matter period is that it tends to excuse a lot. One is no longer held accountable for one's actions, because it doesn't matter. So long as that person feels appropriately bad and asks for forgiveness the right way -- such as the Sinner's Prayer -- one is assured a place in heaven. You can treat the poor with disdain, you can abuse the earth, but if you hold the right beliefs, you're set.
I highly doubt it works that way. Efforts do matter, and it goes along the lines of 'faith with works.' There are people who say that we can trash the environment beyond belief, because when Jesus returns, everything will be new and sinless. The problem is, if someone feels justified in treating the Earth like a giant trash dump, why then would God welcome someone into heaven after that person dies? Regardless of one's view on Earth, it was still created by God (Christian viewpoint, atheists would disagree). It was given for a specific purpose, and with specific commands. Even if the Earth is flawed and fallen now, shouldn't some measure of dominion and respect still be given? If I give a child a simplistic doll that is dented and a little dirty, and the child then proceeds to abuse that doll beyond belief, why would I then proceed to give the child a doll in pristine condition? What has the child done to prove that s/he can handle the pristine doll when the child treated the simple doll with disdain?
Shouldn't the same policy work in terms of heaven? If God has given us life and people and this planet, and we turn around and say, "Nothing I do here matters so long as I have the right beliefs," then do we really get into some sort of paradise? I can't help but feeling those that await the Second Coming with a warlike fervor might be in for a rude awakening. If they're already mistreating what God has given, why is God going to give them something better? This isn't going along a sense of entitlement, in that someone behaved better and thus has 'earned' heaven. But nor can someone go around saying that they'll get into heaven and yet behave in a horrible fashion. It almost seems that those who speak out against environmentalism are behaving in an entitlement fashion, because they won't suffer the consequences. They're 'in.'
I realize that no one is going to behave perfectly 100% here. But there is a difference between closing one's eyes and starting the countdown to heave, and actively trying to live out God's will here and see some of the goodness here -- and screwing up at certain points along the way. Even though Paul states about salvation through grace, it's also very clear that people will be judged based on works. And works are evidence of God's grace working through someone's life.