Should We Choke Harold Camping?

Well, it’s now Monday. I’m sure that it has been more than enough time for Harold Camping and his followers to realize that their calculations were incorrect. On May 21, 2011, 6 p.m. came and 6 p.m. went. It left thousands of hopeful people bewildered. Mr. Camping remained silent. Saturday, May 22, the San Francisco Chronicle knocked on his door. He answered. He told them that he was “flabbergasted” and that he would need prayer and the consultation of his friends. “I’m looking for answers,” said Camping “But now I have nothing else to say…I’ll be back to work Monday and will say more then.” He then closed the door. You can read the full article [here]. It has certainly been pretty sad to read some of the responses from his followers. Especially Robert Fitzpatrick, the author of The Doomsday Code. He gave $140,000 for the promotion of this end times hysteria, only to later be mocked in the middle of Time Square at 6 p.m. on May 21. Totally heartbreaking to hear of how he said, “I don’t understand why nothing is happening.  It’s not a mistake. I did what I had to do. I did what the Bible said.” Check out his video showing his reaction. Just a disclaimer: there is a guy throughout this video who is absolutely annoying.

Well, today is Monday. The Family Radio Web site [here] apparently doesn’t have all of the May 21, 2011 propaganda that it had only 2 days ago. I wonder what Camping will say? As I have searched the Internet feverishly since 6 p.m. on Saturday, I have been disturbed by the behavior I have seen toward Mr. Camping and his followers.

There are many who are hurling obscenities their way. It really shows the fruit of unforgiveness born from the sinful nature of humanity. Forgiveness for mankind will only come when the wrongdoer first begs on his knees for forgiveness, otherwise the person isn’t “worth” any time or energy. It’s completely hypocritical because these same people that demand such a response would hate for that to be demanded of them. It is as though those who are hissing at him have never erred grievously. And all of this spawns from a culture that tries to emphasize “love” and “tolerance”?!

Lying about the Word of God is a grievous sin. Misleading people is a grievous sin. Certainly this illustrates the darkened minds of those who have not been forgiven by Christ. But let this attitude not be counted among us Christians. Jesus told a parable in Matthew 18 about forgiveness. Let’s take a look:

Verse 21: “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

Verse 22: Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

Peter is asking Jesus how often he should forgive someone who had sinned against him. Peter suggests seven times. Jesus answers with 490 times. He isn’t implying that the 491st time Peter can stop. Rather that he should always forgive. He then illustrates with a parable.

Verse 23: “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.

Verse 24: When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.

Verse 25: And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 

Verse 26: So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 

A king wanted to settle accounts with those who owed him money. One of these men owed him ten thousand talents. Since he couldn’t pay the king, the king ordered his family to be sold and payment to be made. Basically, because this guy couldn’t pay his debts, he would incur judgment. But he asks for the king to give him time to pay it.

Verse 27: And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 

The king forgives his debt, and releases him.

Verse 28: But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 

This freed servant finds someone who owes him money. He then chokes him and tell him to pay up. 

Verse 29: So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 

Verse 30: He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 

When this servant asks the forgiven servant for forgiveness, he refuses and throws him into prison until he can pay the debt. 

Verse 31: When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.

Others saw this and told the king.

Verse 32: Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 

Verse 33: And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 

Verse 34: And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 

The king throws the unforgiving servant into jail. He was furious that although the king forgave his debt, this man could not extend the same forgiveness. Because of his unforgiveness, this man still owed the debt. 

Verse 35: So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.””

Christ tells His disciples that the Father will do the same to them if they don’t forgive from their hearts. 

Here is what this parable isn’t saying: It isn’t saying that God forgives everyone who begs for mercy, but He withdraws mercy if they don’t measure up. We don’t keep ourselves saved or anything. If that were the case, we’d be losing our salvation everyday because we sin everyday. Jesus tells us in John 10 that no one can “snatch” believers out of His hand:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” [John 10:27-29]

This would include the fact that not even we can pluck ourselves out of the Savior’s hand. What Christ is showing in Matthew 18 is that those who have faith will forgive their offenders. Forgiveness is a fruit in keeping with repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ. When considering the depth of our offenses toward God, and how He had forgiven us for them, we too ought to forgive those who grievously sin whether it is against us or others. If we can’t, then we don’t understand the gospel. One thing that shouldn’t be said to Camping is, “Oh, that’s okay.” No. Sin isn’t “okay.” Harold Camping needs to repent of his sins. We don’t need to whip him as he cries for mercy, but he needs to recognize the horrific nature of his sin. He then needs to know that there is One Who is worthy to forgive even Camping’s WORST sin.

Another thing I have heard is that Camping needs to apologize to all of those who gave him money and for misleading them. Here is where we probably disagree. Although I think Camping should repent of being a false teacher, I don’t think that absolves his followers. Even though they adhered to his teachings, they aren’t victims. The man Nathan that I mentioned in [Harold Camping Week: Day 2 / My Conversation With Sam] said he didn’t want to be considered one of Camping’s followers. He also said that he hadn’t even read much of what Camping wrote, but he believed the date. The reason that these people were out there throwing out literature and flushing money down the toilet is because they really believed it would happen. They believed, not because they were zombies that Camping had attached mind devices to, but because they saw the same things in Scripture. I  also don’t think Camping did this for money. On the Open Forum (Harold Camping’s radio program), Camping had spoken years ago about how people always called in and gave him new insight. They saw things he had never seen, and they would each “feed” each other. Should we call those people that helped him and instead blame them for influencing Camping? Everyone who held these views, along with Camping, need to repent for ALSO being false teachers. This “victim mentality” they have is another fruit that falls off of the tree of our wicked human nature. It’s the same thing Adam and Eve did when God questioned them. Adam blamed it on Eve. Eve blamed it on the serpent. But many people don’t wish to entertain the idea that they might be wrong. 

Only time will tell what will become of Harold Camping. I’ve also heard that some of his followers believe he was off on the date and that it still might occur later. Christ could return any time. But times and seasons aren’t for us to know. They are the secret things of God. Sure, God had given timelines in the Old Testament, but those have been fulfilled. As we had observed in [The Complete Guide to Daniel’s 70 Weeks], the visions and prophecies of old have been sealed in Christ. Like the writer of Hebrews said, 

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. ” [Hebrews 1:1-2]

As long as people still employ the same interpretive methods of Camping and others like him, there will always be false teaching in the church. People need to be taught how to study the Scriptures correctly. Harold Camping needs to repent. His followers need to repent. We ALL need to repent. And then we need to be reminded that Jesus Christ is greater than our sin, and that He forgives all those who believe. False teachers will come and go. In the mean time, we will continue to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins given through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross.