Harold Camping is just the latest in a long list of doomsday prophets who have fallen flat on their faces. As I watched the aftermath of his failed prediction I was struck by the sincerity of some of his followers. Sure, they were gullible and easily led astray. And yes, it’s easy to look at them with total bewilderment as we see all that they sacrificed for a false prophet. ABC news profiled one guy who spent his entire life savings (nearly $150,000!) on billboards, pamphlets and posters. When asked why, his answer was something along the lines of “I wanted to do everything I could to save as many as I could.” Was he misguided? Absolutely. Is there something we can learn from his example of total sacrifice? Absolutely.
A Long Line of Lunatics
Have you paid attention to just how many ‘lunatics’ there are on the pages of Scripture? What I mean by this is, just look at how many characters were willing to do crazy things to get the message of God out to the masses. These guys, if they existed in our culture, would be mocked by the media, estranged by mainstream Christianity, and thought of in the same vein as the sidewalk preacher who hands out the ‘You’re Going to Hell’ tracts. Here’s a list of just a few:
- John the Baptist- Yeah, he attracted a huge crowd, but I wonder how many were just curious bystanders who wanted to look at the quack country preacher with long hair, itchy clothes and who ate bugs. Let’s admit it, he would be the preacher that everybody says is just too ‘out of touch’ with modern culture, especially with that whole repentance message he had.
- Hosea- This guy married a whore! No, really, he did. Can’t you read the headlines now, “Preacher Marries Prostitute: ‘God told me to do it!'” Never mind the laughability, now he’s got no credibility among the religious right. And things are just going to get worse when he starts explaining that his marriage is a picture of God’s people selling out to lesser idols rather than remaining true to God.
- Jeremiah- As far as lunatics, this guy owns the franchise. During one series of sermons he walks around town with an ox-yoke on his shoulders (that will garner some unwanted attention). But that’s nothing compared to his let’s-preach-naked stunt. He would be on all the cable news shows for being locked up for indecent exposure, not to mention being sued by the naked-cowboy guy in New York for trying to steal his unique performance gimmick.
Our faith has been handed down to us by some radically different characters. Men and women who were absolutely unyielding in their devotion to God and unwavering in their commitment to Him. Unfortunately, such commitment and devotion is not only rare today, it is looked down upon by many within the Church. And the sad thing is, I am just as guilty of looking down my nose at those who are willing to do whatever it takes to share the gospel.
Earlier this week, NBC news did a story on a woman who was taking a year off of work to do something different. She was going to walk from her home in Utah to Washington DC. What made her unique however, was that she was going to carry a ten-foot tall wooden cross the entire way. I’ll be honest, my first reaction was religious snobbery. ‘That’s not going to be effective,’ I mused pridefully to myself. ‘She’s just going to be a joke to 90% of the people she meets.’ My snobbery was reflected in the faces of the news anchor who had that raised eyebrow smirk on his face. But then the Holy Spirit started to do it’s work of convicting me. I began to ask myself all sorts of questions, ‘What if she is called by God to do this? Who am I to question such a calling? How many conversations is she going to start on this 2,000 mile journey? Would I be willing to take a year off of work to do something radical for God? Am I as devoted to Jesus as she is?’ Needless to say, I spent the rest of the night repenting, and being challenged by a woman I never met, that I don’t know what her religious background is and that I initially thought of as a loon. I guess her walk wasn’t in vain.
What About You?
Are you as dedicated to Jesus as Mr. Camping’s followers were to his false teachings? Are you willing to give up everything you have to see others come to Christ? Would you take a year off of work to do something radical if God called you to do it? The ‘lunatics’ may be misguided at times, but their devotion should serve as an example of what Christ expects of His disciples.
For those of us who are leaders, are we leading by example? What are we doing to cultivate an absolute devotion to Jesus Christ in our followers? Are we, as C.S. Lewis pointed out in The Weight of Glory, “half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us…”? As Lewis concludes, I sometimes wonder if, “we are far too easily pleased.” Let’s get radical with our message. Let’s go to people no one else will go to, preach the truth that no one else will preach, and love those that no one else will love. We may be branded as lunatics, but at least the message of Christ will be spread.