Like Harold Camping, I had a failed prediction this weekend. On Tuesday I talked about “breathing deeply” on Sunday morning – this morning. But when I woke up, my sinuses were clogged and my asthma had kicked in; my allergy season as finally set in. I didn’t do much deep breathing this morning; I had to take what I could get.
In all seriousness, though, I’ve been thinking about what happens now after Camping’s second failed prediction. Is he thinking, “Third times the charm,” or is has his faith in God been rattled, if not destroyed altogether? Groups like the one Camping has led are terribly destructive; psychologically, spiritually, and even pragmatically. There was one man who had spent his entire life savings of $140,000 to pay for more advertising with May 21st. How’s he feeling this morning? That’s where my concern is now. What about Camping’s victims – even Camping himself?
My hope is that this weekend brought about the spiritual slap in the face they needed – as we all need from time to time. What I mean by this is that there is the human inclination, the human tendency, to slip into a pattern of piety and ritual; where we take the “simplicity” of the faith to the extreme – so much so that we hinder ourselves from experiencing the heart of God. Removing ourselves from this form of religion can be devastating to our faith. But if we’re spiritually slapped in the faith – rebuked in such a way that we’re compelled to step back and reevaluate everything – we begin to realize it wasn’t our faith that was devastated; it was our understanding of our faith.
Harold Camping and I believe in the proclamations of Scripture, that Jesus Christ is the crucified and yet risen Lord, and that He will one day return to make things right. What separates us, though, is how we understand these beliefs. What my hope today is that Camping is realizing the Bible can’t be a tool by which he gains national and international attention because of his deductive calculations. I hope he is beginning to realize that Jesus is more about grace than He is about wrath and condemnation. And I hope he has seen quite clearly that no one will ever genuinely come to believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit by fear and intimidation.
I hope the same exact thing for all his followers. I hope that their eyes would be opened as well as their minds and hearts to the real Jesus; the Jesus that is leading and guiding us in the Way to true life. Does it mean being ready for when He comes? Yes, but this is far from the focal point. What is? This morning, breaking from my routine of Proverbs in the morning and Psalms in the evening, I read Psalm 19. As usual, my mind wasn’t really engaging the text until I came to verse 14: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”
I love the depth to this verse; that it isn’t about any outward show, but an inward intent. And from here I went back through the Psalm to see just what was defined as “acceptable,” or, as the NIV has it, “pleasing” to God. What I found aligns with what Jesus says in Luke 11:28, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
In Psalm 19, there is a long passage discussing the laws, rules, fear, precepts, and commandments of God and also the effect of all these:
“The law of the LORD is perfect (or blameless),
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is prue,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.” – vv. 7-9
Jesus wants us to live out the law of God not because He wants our habitual devotion, our aggressive advertising, or our surface-level piety; He wants us to live it out so that He can give us something – true life.
The law of God revives the soul, makes the simple wise, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, endures forever, and is true and righteous altogether. Jesus wants us to follow this law in order to receive that which He wants to give us. We fail in receiving it when we apply our man-made philosophies of religion back onto the way, law, and heart of God.
God’s kingdom did not arrive yesterday. Why not? Because it’s already here. In Luke 17:20-21, Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Jesus’ resurrection, as NT Wright says, inaugurated God’s kingdom making its invasion on the earth. In this pit of darkness a light is beginning to break through. We can choose to be a part of this light – a part of this Life – if we simply enact the heart of God in the day to day.
Harold Camping failed to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence in his own Bible that God is not in some distant galaxy waiting for one specific moment, one specific date, one specific hour to make His landing; He’s already here. He’s already within us. And if we love God and love others as Jesus commanded, we will experience that kingdom; we will feel Him at work within us. Future is not something we are supposed to just dream about and not strive for; it’s something we can choose to live today.
I hope and pray that Camping and all of his followers begin to see this reality – even if it means forsaking all of what they formerly believed to be true.
And may we all take part in this dance that is the Kingdom of God.