In all the hoopla surrounding May 21 – a predicted day for the rapture – several things stood out.
First is the fact that the prediction didn’t come true, although those folks who experienced the tornadoes in Kansas and Missouri, the earthquake in San Francisco, the volcanic eruption in Iceland, the continuing floods along the Mississippi River or the landslide in Malaysia may have believed the end of the world was in fact occurring.
Our world is filled with disasters, both manmade and natural, that tear people’s lives apart and wreak destruction and havoc. Biblical descriptions of things that will precede the end times seem to be happening all around us.
However, it is easy to forget how often catastrophes have occurred throughout the centuries.
Second is the sad reflection that end-of-the-world predictions have become the butt of jokes by cartoonists, nonbelievers and other pundits.
Much damage has been done to the testimony of believers, and I expect folks who might have been on the cusp of belief in God’s message of love have been deterred and distracted.
I hope those who spent mega-dollars warning of the coming event will re-examine their motives. They have (as far as I have heard) been strangely silent in succeeding hours.
On a slightly more positive note, the airwaves and Internet have been more full of talk about the rapture and the second coming of Christ than they have been in many a year, maybe since the last such date-setting prediction.
There are probably millions of people for whom this talk of biblical happenings was brand new; perhaps they will pursue an interest in a more serious, meaningful way.
There was, however, one shining example of a Christian witness that blessed me. My friend and fellow board member at the Baptist Center for Ethics, Michael Cheuk, is the pastor of Farmville Baptist Church in Farmville, Va.
Michael posted this note on his Facebook page May 21: “Jesus came back today! He was at our local food pantry waiting in line to receive one of 800+ bags of food that was distributed this morning.”
Michael’s post brought to mind in a vivid way the passage in Matthew where Jesus reminded his disciples (and us) that when we feed the hungry, we are feeding him; every ministry to those in need is a ministry to the Savior.
Not long after Jesus’ ascension, some of his followers were spending all their time looking out their windows for Jesus’ return, having forsaken their work and other obligations.
I expect there were proportionately as many hungry, needy folks outside those windows as are outside our churches today.
While many of us in and out of churches live self-satisfied lives or look hopefully out of our figurative windows, we are blessed that there are some, such as the members of Farmville Baptist Church, who joined their pastor and spent May 21, 2011, in a ministry that must have pleased the God they worship and serve.
Sara Powell is on the board of directors of the Baptist Center for Ethics, a freelance writer and former moderator of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia. She and her husband, Bill, live in Hartwell, Ga.