Cooling the hot buttons

Photo from telegraph.co.ukThe recent interview with Pope Francis, “the people’s pope,” was yet another sign that a fresh new breeze is stirring the dusty air of the Vatican. That makes the more stodgy types really uncomfortable, of course, but it brings hope to millions of Catholics who’d felt cut off from the church due to its unrelenting focus on a few hot button issues that are on ground level, where people live and work and have their being.

Acceptance of gays and lesbians. Abortion rights. People who dare to use contraceptives for birth control.

It’s not as if Pope Francis has challenged church doctrine on any of these issues — he hasn’t. He’s not about to announce that any of those are fully acceptable for fully fledged participants in the Roman Catholic Church.

But he has expressed a far less judgmental attitude toward those who may color outside the lines. Earlier he had commented to reporters “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Exactly.

But for many people, Catholics and Protestants alike, it’s all about judgment, about drawing lines, about distinguishing between those who are holy enough and those who fall short.

I know that counter-argument, that you have to have some standards, that if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything, yada yada yada.

But sometimes we may draw much sharper lines than God ever intended, and let grace fall victim to legalism.

Read the gospels and you’ll discover that Jesus was constantly criticized because he refused to stay within the lines. He ate and drank with known sinners so often that he was called a glutton and a drunkard. He touched people who were considered unclean. He let women show affection to him. He preferred to forgive than to condemn. He worked on the Sabbath. He bucked tradition and authority. His life and ministry were centered on love for all people, not on rules that divide people.

The pope, ideally, is to be Jesus’ number one representative on earth. I’m no expert on Catholic matters and remain firmly committed to my Protestant way of thinking, but it seems to me that Pope Francis shows more of Jesus’ spirit of grace and compassion than the Vatican has seen in a long, long time.

Whatever our religious tradition or lack of tradition, we could learn something from the pontiff’s spirit of humility and grace.

Long may he live.

4 Comments

  1. Great article and I agree with the appeal it makes. Pope Francis has an awesome place to fill and our prayers should include him along with those who share ministry with him. And, my dream is some day, some how, alll Christians every where may join in declaring Jesus is Lord and Saviour.

  2. He bucked tradition and authority.

    Not exactly! He said he came to fulfill, not destroy, the law, and in Gethsemane proved whether or not he bucked authority, even at a great price.

    The pope, ideally, is to be Jesus' number one representative on earth.

    Surely you jest. The RCC worldwide but especially in Europe and the U.S. is corrupt to the point of collective blasphemy. The pope may be doing what the head honchos of many if not most U.S. denominations of any size are doing now—sacrificing tenets of the faith on the altar of political correctness, a grand trivializing of the faith. He understands that the RCC is losing members, credibility and respect and is trying to stem the flow, as is the case in U.S. Christendom, by making the church more like the “world,” not trying to make people more like Christ. Losers, all. You mention lesbians and homosexuals, implying that they are somehow special in terms of grace. Can you imagine Jesus changing the water into wine at a wedding of two men?

  3. "He bucked tradition and authority."

    "Not exactly! He said he came to fulfill, not destroy, the law, and in Gethsemane proved whether or not he bucked authority, even at a great price."

    Interesting shift of premises: Tony writes "tradition and authority"; respondent comments on fulfulling, not destroying the law. tradition and authority = the law?

    Cartledge: 1
    Respondent: 0

    " Can you imagine Jesus changing the water into wine at a wedding of two men?"

    Could you imagine Jesus changing water into wine at the wedding of one woman and one man? Before he did it?

    I know some Baptists who don't believe the "wine" Jesus delivered was even fermented; they consider it to have been grape juice, although it was pronounced better than that originally offered.

    Is Jesus, or God, restricted to doing only what we can imagine?

    Cartledge: 2
    Respondent: 0

    IMHO

  4. Tony,

    You said,

    "But sometimes we may draw much sharper lines than God ever intended, and let grace fall victim to legalism."

    The Pope also issued some conciliatory statements for atheists. When you have compromised the very existance of God how much further can you go? You and the Pope remind me of the words of the apostle Jude:

    "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This