Thursday, August 27, 2009

Do you love your neighbor?

I know a lot of Christians who claim we are in the "End Times" or the "Last Days" prophecied in the Christian scriptures, especially the Revelation of John. I'm skeptical, but I can live with that. Jesus' original disciples didn't always agree and we modern-day disciples don't have to agree, either.

What bothers me, though, is the idea that there are followers of Jesus Christ, generally kind and decent people, who are looking forward joyfully and with great anticipation to the "Rapture" and the "Tribulation" or some variation of an end time when (they hope) the true believers will be lifted fully alive into Heaven and everyone else will be left behind.[1]

I've read those passages. It isn't "Good News." In fact, it's very, very bad news.

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke[2] have descriptions of wars, betrayal by family, executions, "suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be."[3] The Revelation to John describes famine and plague and the devastation of the planet.[4] And yet there are Christians praying for that day. For shame! How can any human being with a conscience wish that on anybody?

Jesus said the second greatest commandment, or law, is "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."[5] If I love my neighbor as myself I don't want her to suffer. If I love my neighbor as myself I pray for good, not for bad.

Oh, and if you're still anxious for the end of the world? You might want to re-read those selections from Matthew 24 and Mark 13. You just might reap what you sow.[6]

QUESTION: How ought Christians pray who believe the "end times" prophecies are literally true? How else can those passages be understood?

[1] Thus the title of the Tim LaHaye/Jerry Jenkins fiction series.
[2] See Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21.
[3] Mark 13:19, NRSV.

[4] See Revelation 6.
[5] Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31 & 33, Luke 10:27. Also repeated in several of the Epistles: Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, and James 2:8.
[6] Job 4:8, Galatians 6:7-8.

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