It became a widely discussed last year when nation radio host Harold Camping announced that he had discovered a Bible code that said the world would come to an end upon the return of Christ on May 21. Thousands of people sold all of their possessions to purchase billboards and to get the message to others: “Repent, this is your last chance!”
I’m not sure, but I can’t imagine that May 22 was a good day for those individuals.
Camping was described as “flabbergasted” that the world didn’t end, but he didn’t let that little misstep get him down. A little over a week after the not-end-of-the-world, he released a new statement saying that while his biblical interpretation skills were very good, his math was not and he was off by a few months. The world instead would end onOctober 21, 2011. In case you missed that day, Jesus did not return last October.
Camping was again shocked. Many wondered what was next for the 90-year old preacher. There was very little in the way of information coming from Camping and his radio organization, until this March. Camping released a letter that is available on the Family Radio website that included some pretty bold statements;
…we humbly acknowledge we were wrong about the timing…
We must also openly acknowledge that we have no new evidence pointing to another date for the end of the world. Though many dates are circulating, Family Radio has no interest in even considering another date. God has humbled us through the events of May 21, to continue to even more fervently search the Scriptures (the Bible), not to find dates, but to be more faithful in our understanding.
We have learned the very painful lesson that all of creation is in God’s hands and He will end time in His time, not ours!
We were even so bold as to insist that the Bible guaranteed that Christ would return on May 21 and that the true believers would be raptured. Yet this incorrect and sinful statement allowed God to get the attention of a great many people who otherwise would not have paid attention…We tremble before God as we humbly ask Him for forgiveness for making that sinful statement. We are so thankful that God is so loving that He will forgive even this sin.
Camping doesn’t sugar coat it for himself. He was wrong, that wrong was not simply a misstep but a sin. He has chosen to step down from his radio program and teaching because of the situation and in his statement, he takes responsibility and asks forgiveness. He has confessed his sin, and for this Camping should be commended. It can be easy for someone with authority and power to abuse it, but it is exceedingly difficult to step up and take responsibility for our sins, and especially publicly.
However, Camping’s letter also points out a potential positive that has come from this situation.
Yes, we humbly acknowledge we were wrong about the timing; yet though we were wrong God is still using the May 21 warning in a very mighty way. In the months following May 21 the Bible has, in some ways, come out from under the shadows and is now being discussed by all kinds of people who never before paid any attention to the Bible.
Through this very public and unfortunate situation, Christians across the country and around the world had an opportunity to talk about the Bible, Christ and His return to friends, neighbors and coworkers that would have never otherwise been interested in discussing religious topics. It shows that God can use anything for His purposes.
When Joseph was approached by his brothers inEgypt(you know, after they sorta sold him into slavery after very nearly killing him), Joseph told them;
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good. (Gen 50:20)
Camping obviously didn’t mean harm towards other in the situation, but the evil one certainly did. However, as Christians who believe in the Bible we can take opportunities like this and use them for good, talking about what the Bible actually says about Christ, His return, and the forgiveness of sins that gives us the hope of eternity in heaven.
God gives us opportunities like this all the time when we look for them. He gives us chances to share our faith with others in ways that will impact them. When we talk about sharing our faith, sometimes we get this awkward picture in our head of getting our friend/coworker/family member, sitting them down at the other side of an empty table, looking them straight in the eye and starting a conversation with the line, “Did you know God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?” While there isn’t anything wrong with this, we often have opportunities in the flow of life to talk about our faith and beliefs in ways that are loving and relaxed, not forceful and harsh. The question is, are we willing to look for these opportunities or shirk away from them.
Anyone hear that Peyton Manning is planning on signing withDenver? Or that there’s going to be a bunch of no-names on Dancing With The Stars? Have you seen the new iPad? How about the 80 degree temps in the middle of March?
We have conversations like this all the time because we are interested in sports, or TV, or technology, or outdoor activities. Are you interested in God? Is God as important to you as your TV, your sports teams, or your other hobbies? If He is, then why is it that we talk about those other things so much more than we talk about Him? Find ways to talk about Him more, not in a way that is forceful or looks down on those who may not share your faith, but in a way that is honest and from your heart. Allow Christ to shine through your life and impact those around you, and see what God does with you.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:16)