“To all my Pharisaical law-worshiper acquaintances: if the “rapture” happens this weekend like you demand it must, let me just say: my house keys are under the back doormat, so help yourself to my guns & Bibles. Please be gentle, though, when you throw the hardcover one at each other. I won’t be there to forgive you.”
This was the Facebook status of my friend Jesse K. yesterday. Jesse and I worked together at a Lutheran Bible Camp in Iowa in the summers of 1999 and 2000. He now works as the camp’s program director. He knows some things about the Bible and Christianity and he’s a really smart guy. As for his Facebook status regarding this weekend, he’s completely kidding.
Like me, Jesse doesn’t expect to be sucked into heaven on Saturday. I thought his satirical statement was hilarious. I agree with its point too. Believers need to remember the dangers of focusing on literal and legalistic interpretations of scripture, instead of the heart of the law of God: love.
You probably have heard that Harold Camping of Family Radio and his followers have been warning all of us that the end of the world is scheduled to happen on Saturday. This is not the first time that this has happened. NPR’s story about how Harold Camping compares in history to other doomsday “prophets” has helped me answer questions from my students this week.
I talked to my friend Hillary B.K., a Lutheran pastor, on Wednesday night. She joked that it might not be necessary for her to write a Sunday sermon this week, but then she figured that God would probably leave some ministers for the people who are left behind.
I laughed and asked her what I need to do to get ready for the rapture. She told that I needed to catch up on my repenting. I needed to get busy making a sackcloth and smear myself with ashes then wander around the city, fast and say I was sorry for my sins. I laughed and told her I would go straight to the business district and federal buildings and loudly apologize for the destruction our social sins of greed and militarism have caused.
Really though, I am fascinated by all of the commotion created by the end-of-the-world hype. I think it’s pretty funny and I wonder if I am unloving to those who take it very seriously. Certainly, comedians and news-writers have had a lot of fun lately with the apocalyptic material. I can’t say I blame them. I am convinced God has a sense of humor and laughs right along with us. As I laugh, I keep on loving and hoping the best for all people.
Yet, I know I have had my own concerns about where the world is headed. I even wrote my own little apocalyptic statement in 2008 after I learned about Peak Oil theory in 2005. But generally, I am not guided by fear, just consciousness. I tend to typically choose trust in God and love.
Admittedly, I am no Bible nor Eschatology scholar. Everyone’s guess is as good as mine. I am only a woman who is trying to live the Gospel in the 21st century.
I know that I have met Christians who talk about the end-times like a cop-out or comfort. I have actually heard Christians say things like: “I am just glad that he end times is soon and I am saved. I hate this world and this life.” I bit my tongue and said a prayer; escapism instead of struggle for the sake of growth and loving seem unhealthy to me.
In my own family I have experienced the harm of rapture-focused fear-driven types of Christianity. One summer my youngest sister went to a different Bible camp than the rest of us because of a schedule conflict. She was 10 at the time.
During the middle of the night they had a “rapture drill” for the children. They woke everyone up and told them it was the end of the world then brought them to a party for those that were “saved.”
My sister says that camp was a paradise until she was asked if she was saved. Then she heard “Would you like to be? Why not, what’s your deal? You’re crying? You’re crying because you have not accepted Jesus in your life.” She cried with confusion. Now, 13 years later she still has a lot doubts and confusion and doesn’t really profess a faith. She knows she is loved, however, so that’s good news!
Let’s tell the good news! We are all loved! Jesus is all about love, not fear nor judgement!! The gospel is about trust and faith and helping people know God through love by sharing, compassion, healing, service, prayer, and work for justice.
As far as the end of the world goes, I want you to all know that I love you, no matter what. And, I hope you don’t mind, but I am going to believe what Jesus says about the rapture, more than anyone else:
- Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one deceives you.
- Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will deceive many.
- When you hear of wars and reports of wars do not be alarmed; such things must happen, but it will not yet be the end.
- Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes from place to place and there will be famines. These are the beginnings of the labor pains.
- But the gospel must first be preached to all nations.
- If anyone says to you then, ‘Look, here is the Messiah! Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. False messiahs and false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders in order to mislead, if that were possible, the elect.
- Be watchful! I have told it all to you beforehand.
- Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
- “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
- Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.
- – Mark 13: 5-11, 21-23, 30-33