Well… if you are reading this, apparently the world didn’t end as predicted.
To be honest, it has only been within the last couple of weeks that I became aware of the furor surrounding Harold Camping’s careful calculations. In fact, it was a billboard in Long Beach that alerted me to the fact that the world would end on May 21, 2011 at 6 pm. The billboard did not specify a time zone, so I assumed it was a rolling end, beginning in New Zealand and moving west an hour at a time. Further exploration revealed that May 21 was not to be the end, but was the beginning of end.
Candidly, it would be easy to ridicule Camping and his followers – numbering into the hundreds of thousands. The deep longing to know the future, to know the ends of time, sets people up for deception by those who claim, sincerely or otherwise, to possess knowledge of those ends. Any certainty, even false, in such uncertain times is sure to attract followers.
The problem with these kinds of things – and there have been many over the past two thousand years – is that they are a distraction. Like a clever magician pulling a willing audience off focus so that he can create the illusion of magic, we get drawn off balance and miss the point. The fact is, Harold Camping and others like him notwithstanding, Jesus really is coming back. As He Himself made it clear, however, no one knows the time. Instead of being distracted by those who claim to know more than anyone has the ability to know, that simple fact ought to challenge and encourage us to a lifestyle of readiness.
I was brought up a bit short over the past few days reading about the enthusiasm generated by the possible return of Jesus and the results that enthusiasm produced. One man, it was reported in an English newspaper, drew down his retirement account to the tune of more than $150,000 in order to help fund billboards, radio spots, and newspaper ads to get the word out and to encourage repentance. He was not the only one. And what is even more poignant, he did not believe that he was likely to be one of the select ones for whom Jesus was coming back! He was willing to make great personal sacrifice for someone else – complete strangers, for the most part.
It got me to thinking. What if we, who know that Jesus is going to return and who have a clear understanding that we are to be making friends and disciples for Him until that moment, had the same passion and heart for those who had not yet heard, or seen lived out, the good news of God’s Kingdom come and coming? Fortunately, there are more effective – and less costly – ways of doing what we know to do at the ends of time, as long as we don’t get distracted. In the meantime, we have nothing better to do.