Francis is coming to America! If Pope Francis really wants to act like the Vicar of Christ and the heir of the Apostles, he might consider speaking the way they spoke. They did not advise the devil on how better to manage his affairs; they cast him out. They did not instruct rulers, soldiers, politicians, scientists, public officials, rich, poor, men and women in their official and social roles. They spoke to them as naked human beings, responsible directly to God. They spoke about the most urgent matter: how do you stand with your God?
So, your honor, instead of playing the scientist, policy expert and economist, why not speak about something on which you can speak with real apostolic authority: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then the division you cause would between those who accept the gospel and those who reject it! That is would your predecessor Peter did in Acts 4; and that is what Paul did in Acts 19. You could begin like this…
“God is the creator of heaven and earth and all that is in them. Every individual owes God for their existence and everything they have and are. Apart from God you are nothing and your accomplishments are worthless. And each one, poor and rich, obscure and famous, weak and powerful will answer to God for every word they say and everything they do and for how they use everything they have been given. Everyone dies, and everyone will stand before the “judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Every secret will be revealed. It is no excuse to say, “I was acting for the company or the country or for an ideal.” Nor will it work to say, “I was oppressed or poor or ill favored.” God does not show favoritism. Nothing else matters if God is not pleased with our work. The most urgent problem, the root of all other problems, in the world today is its sinful rebellion against the Creator (Romans 1).”
“The answer to this problem, the only answer, is Jesus Christ. He is Lord of all, and every knee will bow to him. He alone has been raised from the dead and is seated at God’s right hand. He alone is our righteousness and wisdom. There is no salvation, no knowledge of God and no life in any other savior. He demands that you repent of your sin, trust in his mercy and following him. No excuses, no delays.
“Allow me to quote a warning given by Apostle Paul in Romans, Chapter 1:
“18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.”
“Is this not the real problem in America and in the world we live in? We can give more specificity to Paul’s warning by quoting his moral teaching in Galatians 5:
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
“Hence my first word to America, to its leaders, officials and its people and to the world is the same as Jesus’ first message to the people of his day: “The time has come. The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.” Jesus said many things after and along with this message of repentance, but he never compromised or set it aside. Jesus proclaims that the deepest problem that plagues this world, the root of all others, cannot be solved by sinful human beings, individually or collectively.”
This is what Pope Francis should say but probably will not.
One reader recommended that I place the following paragraph from the comments into the post:
“Well, I am thinking about how leftest politicians fawn when he speaks about global warming or socialist economist policies and how rightest politicians fawn when he speaks about abortion or same-sex marriage. Neither party cares to hear the message of repentance; they want to use the church for their own ends. Why not simply call everyone above and beyond the world? Why not attack the devil in his stronghold and call out the idolatry of human self-worship? Do not let yourself be co-opted by the worldly minded! Call them all beyond their utopian visions, right or left.”
I suppose the world does treat Pope Francis more as the institutional head of a belief system rather than as an evangelist or apologist in his own right. But another angle to think about things from–there may be a reason that the term “Evangelical” is most often associated with Protestants. Would it be characteristic of modern Catholicism to preach the gospel from a public forum if the opportunity arose? I’m not entirely sure, myself…
Well, I am thinking about how leftest politicians fawn when he speaks about global warming or socialist economist policies and how rightest politicians fawn when he speaks about abortion or same-sex marriage. Neither party cares to hear the message of repentance; they want to use the church for their own ends. Why not simply call everyone above and beyond the world? Why not attack the devil in his stronghold and call out the idolatry of human self-worship? Do not let yourself be co-opted by the worldly minded!
Well put, Ron. That paragraph should have been in the post (or the excerpt). I don’t know if this is true for others, but in my experience a majority of believers are functionally a political liberal or conservative first, and then read their faith through that paradigm, emphasizing the parts that fit and reinterpreting (or explaining away) those that do not. Nothing insightful about that, of course (though the charge is usually made only against conservatives). But the pope’s speaking out raising that issue in a new way, as you address: if he speaks the social gospel to politicians, the left likes him; when he speaks of moral issues, the right likes him. One could argue the Pope is doing the right thing—his message both pleases and displeases both sides. But I agree with you—he often speaks in political terms about political issues rather than in transcendant spiritual terms about repentance. None of them could use him for their ends if he did the latter.
He is getting some criticism from other RC leaders for not focusing on the church’s core messages.
Good words. I moved my paragraph to the end of the post. Thanks for the suggestion!
Although the leftist media frequently misquotes him… My Catholic friend Gerard Rothfus showed me a good collection of article headlines that completely misconstrue what was said in context of the interview.
I am reminded of Matthew 7:23,“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ To proclaim to be God’s messenger and not proclaim his message is in my opinion the greatest evil. Have good things even miraculous things happened through the work of this current pope? Yes. Does he really know God and not just knows a lot about him? I’m not to sure. To know him is to do what pleases him. Proclaim the Good news, not the culturally relevant news. It seems to me Pope Francis wants to be in the world and of the world. May I start to pray for a heart change in this current pope, a heart change only our Father can bring about.
I love this blog post; Christian boldness in America today is so scarce, and it is comforting to see it so clearly articulated that we cannot simply preach “love”, but we must also proclaim the name and the story and the purpose of Love, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I found that this definition of a social gospel provides a very clear rebuttal to the “just love your neighbor and don’t mention Jesus!” argument:
“Jesus never issued any call for political change, not even by peaceful means. He did not come to earth to be a political or social reformer. The gospel Jesus preached did not have to do with social reform or social justice or political change. Rather than attempt to change governments and institutions, which are made up of people, Jesus came to change people’s hearts and point them to God’s kingdom. He preached the saving power of the gospel and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.”
Upon searching Pope Francis’ Twitter page (@Pontifex), I did find a single quote that breached the subject of sin: “We are all sinners. Let us be transformed by God’s mercy.” While the whole gospel isn’t articulated in this tweet, I suppose it’s a step in the right direction. However, I do not wish to demean Pope Francis’ work–the social message he preaches is an extension and application of the love of Christ, and we cannot argue with his stances on loving the poor and sick. It just seems to me that, were we to liken Pope Francis to a historical figure, we’d more readily compare him to Mother Theresa than to Jesus Christ.
Ironically, some of the idolatry taking place is of the Pope himself. I, too, think he’s a great man, and though only God can know or judge the heart, as far as I can tell, he seems to have worthwhile intentions and just motives. But regardless of how great a man he appears to be, he is just that — a man. It worries me when I see the way the crowds — many of whom are self-proclaimed Christians — go crazy over him. They are putting their faith in a mortal man instead of the Son of Man to redeem the world and guide us down a path of righteousness. Paul repeatedly reminds his readers in his letters that he works because of God and that he is saved because of Christ. I think the Pope should also make even more of a point to turn people’s worship away from himself and toward God. People’s reactions to him show that they are looking for a higher being to worship (which we know already because it is programmed into us). That also contributes to the amazing opportunity he has to point people to Jesus — their only true Savior.
Powerful and bold! I love it!