The office of “Pope” has been polarizing for as long as I can remember. He stirs up lots of
feelings and opinions, right? When you hear the words “Pope” or “Catholic,” I’m guessing
you have some strong pre-conceived opinions or emotions ranging from joy to guilt.
On a side note, maybe you’re wondering if you are a polarizing person. If so, just ask
yourself, “Do I need a bullet-proof car?” If the answer is, “Yes” – you’re polarizing. Bill and I
are thinking about buying a bullet-proof golf cart at Ascent and cruising our giant parking
lot just so we can feel more important than we really are. I’m sure our church would love to
see us spend our money on that. Ahem…
This post is not about politics or Catholicism. Frankly, I’m over my head in that
conversation. It’s just about something I admire in Pope Francis.
He believes the good news about Jesus should be good news for the poor.
ou know that Christians have an incredible track record over the centuries of caring
for the poor, hurting, sick, imprisoned and outcasts? Sadly, that started changing in the
1900s. Some people in the Church drove the entire focus of the church toward social issues,
but they were not convinced Jesus was an essential ingredient. They were doing work Jesus
cares deeply about but abandoned sole allegiance to Jesus in the process. Oops.
As a backlash, more conservative thinkers distanced themselves from helping the poor
because they wanted to make a clear point, “It’s about Jesus not social issues.” They halted
serving the poor out of a desire to not be associated with more liberal Christians who had
drifted away from Jesus. That same funky divide still exists in peoples’ view of their faith
today – it’s either Jesus or service - even in conversations I’ve had in the last few weeks.
Jesus’s first words describing his mission in Luke’s gospel say, "The Spirit of the LORD is
upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to
proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set
free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” – Luke 4:18-19
Caring for the poor was essential to Jesus’s view of his own mission. Pope Francis gets that.
He’s not alone. Donations from Jesus-loving Christians have dramatically increased to
organizations like Compassion International and World Vision in the last decade.
And… Jesus is the essential ingredient to our love for others. If I don’t love others under the
submission to the God who designed me, I will burn out, fall short or get arrogant.
The false dichotomy of either “Jesus” or “serve the poor” is being crushed as more Christians
(including myself) wake up to the fact that Jesus is reconciling “all things” to himself. It’s not
an “either/or” when it comes to loving Jesus and loving the poor. It’s a “both/and.” It’s hard
to read the Bible and not recognize that God has a peculiar love for anyone who is hurting.
That’s really good news.
I’m inspired by this Pope’s willingness to get his fingernails dirty for the people Jesus loves.
It makes me want to do the same. And I want my golf cart too.