Believing and behaving tend to go hand in hand.
Take end-of-the-world believing, for instance. Some Christians believe that signs of chaos in nature (earthquakes and floods), social disorder (loss of absolute moral standards), and geo-political reorganization (one world government) will precede the second coming of Christ.
Along with this, the faithful expect deliverance via a disappearing act called “the rapture”. Rapture means “to be caught up”, and in this scenario, Christians with the right beliefs will be caught up — literally taken up into the clouds to be with the Lord. They will thus escape the worst of the end-times trauma, leaving behind those who either didn’t believe, or didn’t believe the right things.
What you believe about the end affects the way you live in the meantime. For example, some who hold this view also view the environmental movement as folly since God intends to do away with the earth in favor of heaven anyway. But the New Testament says that God is going to make all things new, not make all new things. The new heaven and new earth promised are the renewal of heaven and earth, not the disposing of earth for the safety of heaven.
Similarly, some cannot fight for a just solution to the Middle East conflict between Israel and the Palestinian because they identify the nation of Israel today with the people of Israel biblically. Israel plays a key role in end times prophecy, including the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. So anything that would undermine Israel’s security would undermine God’s sovereignty.
The Michigan Christian militia, the Hutaree, was arrested last month for plotting to kill law enforcement officials. They believe they were fighting against the spirit of the antichrist, which is represented by the U.S. government. These Christian soldiers of the apocalypse read the book of Revelation as a call to arms, not just as a call to spiritual warfare.
And then this: BusinessWeek reports a new commercial enterprise that appeals to pet-loving believers in the rapture. Bart Centre, a New Hampshire retired retail executive and nonbeliever, has set up a service called “eternal earth-bound pets”. For 92 cents per month, he will arrange to have the left-behind pets of the raptured faithful cared for by atheists who remain. Since pets don’t have souls, they won’t be raptured with their believing owners. He already has 100 clients. “I’m trying to figure out how to cash in on this hysteria to supplement my income,” Centre says. The challenge is twofold: He must reassure rapture believers that the pet rescuers are wicked enough to be left behind, and yet that they are good enough to take care of the abandoned pets.
What to make of all this? Not fun, even if aspects of it are funny. Jeffrey Weiss, longtime Dallas Morning News reporter who covered religion for many years, coined his first law of religious relativism: “Every religion is crazy by definition, to a nonbeliever.” But insiders see the logic of their belief and act upon it accordingly.
It’s the acting upon it accordingly that opens the belief to judgment, not the right itself to believe something someone else might think unbelievable. This entire piece could have been done on the vision of the promises of reward that inspire radicalized Muslim terrorists, or on uncompromising Ultraorthodox Israeli Jews who see modern Palestinians as ancient Canaanites to be conquered, or on any number of other violent enthusiasts from non-Abrahamic religions. But it’s always best to attend first to the log in one’s own eye than to the splinter in another’s.
When Jesus answered the question about what is the greatest commandment, he turned two answers into one: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus believed it unbelievable that we could love God rightly while disregarding the well-being of our neighbors.