I had promised myself that I would continue writing my series about youth ministry and not be sidelined by other topics, but once again I have broken a promise to myself. But I simply couldn't sit by and allow for this to continue.
If anyone has been reading or watching the news, out in public, talking with people, or simply paying attention to world events, you have noticed that a new pope has been elected. In keeping with the Papal structure the Cardinals met and voted on who would replace Pope Benedict, and came up with Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, who will now be known as Pope Francis. This is a huge and momentous occasion for the Catholic faith and they are thrilled to have a new pope after Benedict chose to resign due to his age and other reasons.
Normally this would not affect me in such a way because it does not affect my Protestant beliefs since I am not held to the governing ordinances of Rome. But the match that set off this fuse is this: I have noticed an increasing large amount of Protestants (mostly ministers) openly mocking and criticizing the Pope and the Catholic faith. Most of them are doing it in jest but the point is they are hurting Protestants everywhere. And to them I say "Shame on you!"
I am aware that most of you are simply poking fun at something that you may not understand, you do not agree with, you do not believe in, but would you stand by and chuckle should someone speak poorly about your pastor and his manner of dress? Would you smile and brush it off as a pass at poor humor should someone malign one of the Apostles? Would you be okay with people openly mocking your faith, beliefs, doctrine, theology, or personal thoughts? I would submit that no, you would not be okay with that. I myself take great offense when one makes a mockery of my beliefs. As Protestants whenever our faith is attacked we cry afoul, we demand justice, we demand respect, we demand that our faith not be harped upon, but when it comes to other beliefs we mock them openly and in a public setting or forum?
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not in support of the Papal structure. I do not agree with the Pope, the philosophies or doctrines of the Catholic church, nor do I believe that all Catholics believe the way that we Protestants do. But I can say this: we have many brothers and sisters within the Catholic faith who ascribe to the beliefs that we do. I say this because I personally know of many Protestants who have become disillusioned with the lack of structure, the hypocrisy, and the constant infighting in Protestant denominations and have sought out the structure and oneness that Catholicism offers. They do not ascribe to all tenants of the Catholic beliefs (ie: praying to saints, holy water, and the doctrine of Purgatory) but rather find their ability to worship God magnified by their surroundings and the support offered through a unified body. I also know of many priests who have set aside the common liturgy used in the Catholic tradition and instead preach Christ glorified straight from Scripture.
Brothers and sisters, we need to be mindful of what we say. I say we because I know that what comes from my mouth at times is insensitive and hypocritical. But that is not who we are to be! We are called to be different. We are called to be set apart. We are called to be like Christ!
When you invite people to faith in Christ, and then ask them stand beside us as believers as we point and laugh at other people around the world for their beliefs, what have we done? This is not what Christ had in mind when He told us to "make disciples" or when He met the woman at the well. We are called to minister not to malign. We are called to be servants of the Gospel not one who condemns to Hell.
Please understand me. I am not saying that we need to be accepting of all religions, or that all religions lead to eternal salvation. But I am pleading with you to think before you speak. Our tongues can do a lot of good, but also a lot of bad. While yes the Gospel is offense because it calls for one way to God, and no other option, and yes there are doctrines and truths that can cause people to be hurt because it calls their sins into view, that does not mean we need to be offense in sharing it!
My purpose in writing about this topic is as follows: To simply make us think about what we say and how we say it. I will close by pointing us to these verses (1 Peter 4:1-11, James 1:19-20, James 3:1-12, Luke 19:1-10) and asking for us to always be mindful of how we speak because we are representing Christ. Our actions and words speak volumes, but let them speak volumes of love and correction in love to those we should speak to.