Often when someone in my evangelical circles writes something positive about Catholicism or the Pope they feel the need to caveat their statements with something about not agreeing with most of the Catholic Church. Stuff that.
This new Pope, who has taken on the name of one of my heroes in the faith, St Francis of Assisi, is confounding the world with his words, actions and lifestyle. The reason is, that so few outside the church can find Christ in the church. What I mean is that when most non-Christians see the church they do not see the compassion of Jesus on the least, the power of Jesus to heal or the simple lifestyle of Jesus. What they see is wealth, abuse, corruption, hypocrisy and intolerance. In fact they see all the things that Jesus opposed in his life. So what then do you do with the current Pope?
Some things that have stood out so far include taking on humble accommodation, washing the feet of a young female muslim prisoner, praying for a man held captive by evil, embracing the young, calling people on the phone who are struggling. And then this in the last week, embracing a man covered with what looks like boils and praying for his healing. What do you do with a man who leads a huge percentage of the worlds Christians, who actually resembles in part, Jesus?
And yet what the elites in the West will still find hard, despite their attraction to this genuine Christian is that he is also speaking truth. Despite having a place in his church for everyone, he is not about to condone immoral lifestyles, corporate greed, global injustices or wishy washy spirituality. In other words he is balancing grace and truth.
That is what all Christians are called to. We are to love extravagantly, live simply, be hospitable to all and condemn no one (Jesus spoke about all that). But we are also to speak the truth about Jesus as Lord and alert people to the new reality of the kingdom of God and repentance that leads to life. I say thank God for the new Pope.