Pontifical Prolixness

There has been much said in the press and on social media about the Pope. He spent last week traveling and speaking and concluded his visit in Philadelphia on Sunday. Given the nature of his position, you can imagine that there have been wonderful things said and written about him. You can also imagine the amount of negative things shared by those who are skeptical or completely opposed to him. I am not Roman Catholic so I obviously don’t share the deep devotion of those who are a part of that group. However, I am not one who believes he is a minion of Satan and is ushering in the Apocalypse. I admit that I do have some concerns with portions of Roman Catholic theology and I myself would never convert. I can say the same for a lot of Protestant Christian groups as well. My intent today is not to critique the Pope or Roman Catholicism. I am not writing this to condemn or worship him either. What I would like to do is share a couple of quotes from him and then share my opinions on those. That is my ONLY purpose for this post. Perhaps we can have a discussion about all of those other things at a later time.

A Christianity which “does” little in practice, while incessantly “explaining” its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced. I would even say that it is stuck in a vicious circle. (Full text HERE)

As a pastor, I spend a lot of time studying. I also spend quite a bit of time preparing lessons and sermons. I think it is important for us to be able to understand and explain just what it is we believe. Lessons and sermons are part of that and I believe that I should prepare myself so that I can effectively communicate truth. However, I think it is more important for people to see me living out those truths in the way I live my life. It takes more than head knowledge. When I read the Gospels I see Jesus consistently rebuking the religious leaders of his day. When it came to all the laws and rules, they had it all figured it all. They were professional worshipers who were able to explain it all, down the smallest of details. The problem was that it didn’t mean anything to them. They had no compassion or mercy. Jesus told them that they looked fine on the outside but were dead and rotten on the outside.

I think one of the dangers that all Christians face is the idea that we must devote all of our time trying to logically defend and debate every one who opposes us. I’m not saying that we should abandon apologetics, in fact, many of us should take it more seriously. We need to know why we believe what we believe. We should help others understand what we believe. The danger arises when we elevate apologetics over sharing the love of Jesus. What good does it do to have a solid knowledge of doctrinal issues if you never actually go out into the world and get your hands dirty? We should teach people the truth. That’s part of the whole “make disciples” thing in Matthew 28. We can’t do that until we actually meet people and get to know them. Which do you think is more effective, telling someone that Jesus loves them or showing them?

Faith makes us open to the quiet presence of God at every moment of our lives, in every person and in every situation. (Full text HERE)

I really like this one. The original context was in a talk about the homeless. One of the things that has impressed me about Francis is that he seems to have genuine concern for the oppressed. When he first became Pope he shocked a lot of people by eschewing some of the things that his predecessors did. He has consistently reached out to those who are less fortunate. One of the most touching things he did was back in November 2013 when he stopped and embraced a severely disfigured man. HERE is a story about that encounter.

Pope Francis

I think one of the reasons it made such an impact on me (and millions of others) is because it looked exactly like something that Jesus would do. I immediately thought of the leper in Matthew 8. Jesus healed him but we sometimes overlook the obvious. He touched him. He wasn’t afraid or embarrassed to reach out and embrace someone who was untouchable. I don’t believe that Francis is perfect. I know that I don’t agree with him on everything, even some of the big theological stuff. As I said earlier, this post isn’t to discuss the office of Pope. It is to recognize that this guy, while serving in an extremely important role, has not been afraid to say and do things that look remarkably like Jesus. If nothing else, he has got me thinking about how I NEED to do more of that in my own life.

I don’t know how you feel about Pope Francis. I have some good friends who are Roman Catholic so I know they think highly of him. I have other friends who, well, they don’t. I am not trying to convince either group that they are right or wrong. Jesus said that you can judge a tree by its fruit. Right now that is all I am doing. Perhaps we need to have those other discussions. I am definitely open to them. I simply want to suggest that we listen to what the man says. Perhaps we all can find the truth that is there.

Grace and peace

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