Pope Francis has been making headlines all morning as he publicly announced that he does not judge gay people who search for the Lord. His sentiment includes gay priests who Catholic predecessors have made clear are unfit for priesthood. Pope Francis’ statement is very enlightening in how he chose to word it. He said, “Who am I to judge?” He is not just commanding people to not judge our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ, he is showing that even being the Pope, someone who leads the world’s largest denomination of Christians worldwide, it is not his job to judge people. He is engaging in humble self-reflection: “What makes me so special that I am allowed to judge people and limit their relationship with the Lord?” He is clearly showing a graceful and merciful heart as he is being accountable to the fact that he is still just a person, a follower of Christ.
It is fantastic news that the leader of the 1.1 billion Roman Catholics around the world is leading with love. While this statement is quite prolific for the Pope to make given the current culture war between the Church and the LGBT community, it is important to keep in mind that the Catholic Church stills states that acting on homosexual urges is still a sin, although the orientation of homosexuality itself is not. They recognize homosexuality as a real and long-standing sexual orientation and do not believe gay Catholics should try and change their orientation or “pray away the gay.”
While Pope Francis is clearly making good changes within the Catholic Church by showing real love and mercy through his commitment of Christ-centered grace, I have to say it should hit a nerve with Christians that it is headline news for a Christian of any hierarchical position to say, “Who am I to judge?” If the Pope claiming it is not his job to judge others is the hottest news story today, the church is failing at carrying out its mission to go out, love people, serve them, and tell them of the redemption found in Christ. The Great Commission, last personal directive of Jesus to his followers, says:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
At no point did Jesus say, “And if they don’t listen to you about me, judge them, and cast them aside as God-haters.” Yes, Jesus instructed his followers to teach people to obey the commandments he laid out, but at no point did he say it was our place to judge the outcome or result of those teachings. In John 12:47 Christ says, “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” That doesn’t mean that people are allowed to get away with what they want with no ramifications. The very next verse says that “there is a judge for the one who rejects me (Jesus)” and that one is God. God is the only one who can truly judge our hearts. That doesn’t mean Christians shouldn’t teach the gospel and Jesus’ commandments and hold them as truth in our lives and how we talk with one another, it simply means that our job is to bring truth to those who don’t know Him. No more, no less.
We as humans are prone to judge, compare, and evaluate one another based on our own understandings of scripture, and that is simply not out place. We are to preach the gospel, God is to decide if they received it. Anything else from us is rooted in self-righteousness, arrogance, and I think a fear stemming from our own doubt of God (if I can convince myself that they aren’t really saved, than I can feel better about my own salvation because at least I am not like them). Now, Christians are called to use discernment, meaning properly navigating and determining the right choice in a situation, but that is very different from making the call that someone deserves Jesus more than another or making the claim, “Well, they say they love Jesus but, they aren’t really saved.”
All in all, I think it’s wonderful that the leader of the 1.1 billion Roman Catholics around the world is rooted in Jesus’ forgiveness and grace so much, that even as the most powerful Christian in the world, he realizes that it is not his place to judge others. With that said, the Church as the hands and feet of Christ need to step up and critically engage with what it means when it is front page news for Christians to not judge others. While I think it is not wholly the Church’s fault, we as the bride of Christ need to repent where we have done wrong and move the church into a place where we are synonymous with the Gospel of a savior who loves. That is how God has connects with us, and that is how we should connect with others.
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