By Stanley Abell

Your life is now your life is now, your life is now
In this undiscovered moment…

“Your Life is Now” ~John Mellencamp

In the world of grammar, a place I rarely travel, future tense denotes a verb that expresses actions in the future. A much more ominous verb tense, at least grammatically speaking, is future perfect tense, which describes an action that will be completed in the future.

Now, let’s travel from grammar world to our world where “future tense” takes on a little different meaning. Think how stress-free our lives would be if we could be certain about actions in the future: our career trajectory, our children’s well-being, the stock market, world peace, our health.

Let’s go one more step to future perfect tense, which is where Harold Camping comes in (and don’t end your sentence with a preposition). Remember him? He’s the President of Family Radio, a Christian radio network, and the guy who predicted the end of the world (Rapture) on May 21st. So, to state this in future perfect grammar, “The world will have ended on June 21st.”

Let me check my calendar for a moment. Okay, Mr. Camping, try again, second chance… Ah, October 21st you say, thank you… I feel much better, much more confident about the future. This gives me much more time to have sold all my worldly possessions and let your organization have the proceeds.

At least the rapture, the end of the world… the second coming of Christ is Biblically based (but open to wide interpretation); predicting it is most decidedly not. Camping’s predictions are based on Biblical numerology… as real as basing the Constitution on National Treasure and National Treasure 2.

In the wake of Camping’s ridiculous claims, many well-meaning Christians came to his defense saying that while he was mistaken, let’s not be too hard on him because at least the heart of his message is accurate even if his prediction wasn’t. This guy is a sham, a charlatan, a crack-pot and a person who give people of faith everywhere a bad name.

Of course Camping and the rapture became a media circus. Again, well-meaning Christians said don’t belittle this guy… again, because at least his message is accurate. Seriously, as Christians, is the best we can do? To most of the world, the answer is yes. Far too often nut jobs like Harold Camping become the face of Christianity and make anyone associated with Christianity a laughing stock.

Camping’s posturing obscures the real, life-giving message and ministry of Jesus. To seriously follow Jesus is to be concerned with the present tense: injustice, world hunger, girls being sold as sex slaves, racism, economic gluttony.

The “heart” of Camping’s prediction is a scriptural assertion by Jesus that he will return and that there will be a judgment between the wicked and the righteous around which the circumstances are uncertain. The most certain part of this scripture IS the timing of this event. “No one knows the day or hour. The angels in heaven don’t know, Jesus doesn’t know. Only God knows.” (Matthew 24:36)

Camping’s scare-tactic rhetoric is better suited for a traveling side-show. It is reminiscent of the door-to-door pamphlet-wielding eschatological prognosticators who blithely ask, “If you died today, do you know where you are going.” My all time best answer to that query, which has guaranteed my house is permanently bypassed… “Why, yes I do, to the mortuary.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I have accepted Jesus into my life, and for me, it’s a simple present tense. John Mellencamp and Jesus said, “Your life is now your life is now your life is now… in this undiscovered moment.” It’s those undiscovered moments where we are called to follow Jesus. It is God working in and through us to help make whole the broken amongst us…today.

What will happen in the future, I trust to God (including, and especially October 21st). What happens in the present God is counting on us.