Periodically, someone like a Pat Robertson or a Harold Camping will say or claim something that is so absurd and so ridiculous that it garners the attention of the national media and sends a collective shiver down the spines of the more sane persons who call themselves Christians. Because what has been carelessly spouted out by these persons are untruths and shine a negative light on Christianity, we are disgusted, outraged, and regretful that these persons decided to choose the Christian religion as the stage on which they showcase their tendencies toward lunacy.
And I believe that it is good and right to feel a certain sort of disgust and outrage when such persons say such things. Often when they do, they skew the truth, promote falsehoods, and lead others astray in the process. But as with all areas of life, I think that the motivations behind our disgust, outrage, etc. must be tested to show whether or not they are right in and of themselves and promote the truth. For though one reacts to the negative act of one, that reaction is not necessarily positive. In fact, it is probably more often the case that the negative acts of a person inspire and produce negative acts in another.
So then, what are appropriate motivations that inspire such hostile feelings in response to the blatherings of our modern village idiots? A few of these might include a desire to see the truth rightly taught and proclaimed, a desire to dissuade confusion in the church, and others like it.
What then are some inappropriate motivations? Perhaps the chief of these is our concern of being associated with such persons by those who are not in the church. Friends, coworkers, etc. who know that we are Christians see these persons who also claim to be Christians and therefore lump us (or so we think) into the same category as them. If this a motivation of our disgust, etc., then it is likely driven by our pride more than it is by our aspirations to sanctify the truth. And, truth be told, if this is our motivation, there are dozens of more true and orthodox doctrines that the world views as loonier than those of the date setters and the judgment declarers.
Another is the belief that these puny, nutty men can thwart the purposes of God. This is a negative motivation because it is simply untrue. Much is said about our witness to the world, but somehow, between the time the apostles penned the New Testament and now, our “witness” became not about Jesus Christ and his work but it became about the façade that we put up in front of the world. In other words, the church has adopted the witnessing practices of the Pharisees. If our appearance to the world was really supposed to be such a concern, I doubt that the Apostle Paul would have written publicly to the Corinthian church about their incestuous relationship problem or to the Galatian church about how easily they turned away to a false religion of works. The church has always been a messy thing, and she will remain so until Christ actually returns.
When people such as Harold Camping go about sharing their “prophecies” on billboards, one of two things happen to those outside the church who see them: either they are hardened in their unbelief, or they are not. And it is the Spirit of God who controls this reaction, not the supposed free will of person viewing it. As the apostle Paul writes:
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ (2Cor. 2:14-17)
In other words, it is not the sanity or reasonableness of our Gospel that saves, but it is the Spirit who saves. And being that this is the same Spirit who raised Christ Jesus from the dead, you’d best believe that he can overcome Harold Camping to call one of his own.