Obsession…that’s what could describe this last week in our world. We learned that we are obsessed as a culture with being correct and with figuring out what we were never meant to figure out. We as humans cannot live with our limited human capacity. It is difficult for us to deal with that which we cannot wrap our minds around. Often times we choose to avoid such subjects because they make us uncomfortable. Others, like Harold Camping, choose to read into the words of Scripture and make them say something they were never intended to say. Those of us who know better mock. Those who don’t believe mock. Nobody wins when faith is misplaced. I can remember being younger and being obsessed with the end times as well. It was one of those things that just fascinates our culture. How will history come to a close? In reading the New Testament one can see that clearly those writers thought it would be soon, just like we are sure today. If you were to ask most practicing Christians today they would probably tell you without a doubt that we are in the end times. Truthfully, this idea is relatively new to Christian thought. The idea of a rapture did not even surface until the 20th Century. For whatever reason, this idea has taken hold in our culture and in the church. Pages upon pages are written trying to relate the words of the Prophets, the words of Revelation, and correlate them with the events of today. In doing so writers take the power out of the words of Scripture and cheapen them, which leaves our faith open to attacks and criticism like we all witnessed in the week leading up to last Saturday as well as this week. We misplace our faith when we take Scripture out of context.
Most Christians who even casually read their Bible knew that if Mr. Camping had been correct it would have been more likely by coincidence rather than his work of interpretation. We joined with the world in mocking him…I was one of these at first. As I thought more, read more, I really began to have a change of heart. This man, these people, did not deserve to be mocked. They did not intend evil, they just had their faith misplaced. Camping’s followers made this mistake in placing their faith in a fallible man who made a major error in interpreting Scripture. As a result many have lost their livelihoods and some may even lose their faith. This should break our hearts. Camping misplaced his faith by spending more time trying to read into the Bible rather than just reading. He truly believed he had come to understand what was not understandable and wanted to help the world. He was not unintelligent being that he was an engineer and successful businessman. He just had a little too much faith in himself. Trying to figure out something became more important than just living out what is made clear. He intended good, but the results were drastically bad. That should break our hearts as well.
Before we jump on Harold Camping’s case we should ask, “Are we any different.” At times we are all guilty of misplacing our faith. We become more hooked on an idea, a movement, or a personality rather than what those elements represent. Christ alone our faith should be placed in and the rest should be peripheral. Churches split or close their doors every day because they become based on the pastor rather than the true head of the church. Too often when we hear a great message we praise the personality of a great speaker or writer rather than the one whom the message originated from. Then, when those decidedly human and fallable people fail or are wrong it shakes our faith. I’m guilty of the same thing Camping and his followers are…just not in the same way.
I hope humility can be shown from Camping and his followers. I am given hope from a quote from one of Family Radio’s board members who said, “I don’t know where we went wrong other than that we obviously don’t understand the Scriptures in the way that we should.” This gives me hope that good can come from last week. And I hope that we can all join in being compassionate, graceful, prayerful towards those who misplaced their faith. They aren’t the enemy and we should not want to see them be looked at as such. Indeed, it would have been nice if they had been right. The prayer of the early church was, “Maranatha,” which meant “Lord come quickly.” That should be the desire of our hearts as well. I also hope we realize that their mistake is one we make often. When we take our eyes off of the cross, off of Jesus, we misplace our faith. We do this often and our faith and the church suffers because of it. There are somethings we are not meant to understand and therefore we should be content with that and let our faith take over where understanding fails.