Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pastor Camping didn't just miss the date, he missed the point

Pastor Camping predicted the rapture would happen on Saturday, but according to recently-filed missing-persons reports, it either didn't happen, the 2000-year-old estimate of 400,000 believers was optimistic, or at least none of them lived in metro Detroit.

Whenever the date arrives, now is a good time to take a refresher course in faith, and at Pastor Camping's expense, why he shouldn't have made the prediction in the first place regardless his convictions.

I worked with a man for nearly eight years that was a minister before he became a computer programmer.  His aptitude for programming probably influenced his uniquely insightful and reasoned interpretations of scripture.

Whatever his unique blend of talents was, he once explained to me what the word faith means.  It is important to know this, because it might help some avoid being caught-up in doomsday "prophesies," or wondering what we should be doing in the present.

The etymology of faith comes from the Latin root, fidere, meaning trust or confidence.  A popular New Testament story about trust, confidence, and faith is from Matthew (and Luke), about a Roman centurion who asks Jesus to heal his servant.
5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
 7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” 8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
 10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.
What my co-worker pointed out from this story is that the Centurion isn't the only one with faith, or trust, or confidence.  Each of his subordinates has an equal amount of faith, and presumably, so does the centurion's commander.  The important, and often missed, point of the story is that each person knows where they are in the chain of command.  Each of them knows who is above them and who is below.  Having faith isn't only having trust or confidence in others, it is knowing where you are in the chain of command.  It is knowing your own place, whether that be as a parent, child, teacher, student, employer, employee, or a pastor in Oakland, California.

Where the pastor, whom I presume understands what faith is, tripped was he forgot both his position and his scripture.  Starting with Matthew 24:36, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father," Pastor Camping forgot that he is not God, and if neither Jesus nor the angels know, why should he?

The damage is already done.  Pastor Camping's insubordination (forgetting his place in the chain of command--or worse: abusing it) has caused many people to lose their homes and jobs, he's squandered the resources of his ministry, will lose dedicated employees, and may cause many Christians to stumble in their own faith.  Such is the cost of losing faith, not by losing trust in others, but forgetting where you are in relationship to them.

God is perfectly capable of pulling-off a rapture or destroying the world on His own and likely doesn't need Pastor Campings, or anyone else's assistance, to let us know when it's coming.  We're not supposed to know, and if you're good with that then you are a centurion.

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