Whether or not you consider yourself a spiritual person, you’ve probably heard news stories about Pope Francis visiting the United States recently. I was impressed with the amount of coverage this story received. I’m not Catholic, and I don’t understand all of the Catholic traditions and rituals, but I’m a “live-and-let-live” kind of woman, so I tend to sit back and observe and try to learn about things I don’t understand.
I’ve studied the Bible for many, many years. When I was 18, I was pursuing the field of computer programming, attending a private university on a partial scholarship in connection with computer programming. As I sat in classes, I began to become frustrated with the dynamics of simply sitting in class and being told that things are the way they are. I longed for more of a back-and-forth discussion about some of the ideas of our founding fathers and religion and politics. I decided to change my focus, and I moved to Tennessee to attend Bible school. Honestly, I’ve never been a very good Sunday school student or Bible school student. The reason I say this is because it seems that I ask too many questions for the typical Sunday school teacher and Bible teacher. I tend to ask questions like, “Why were women treated so poorly in the Bible?” “Why do religious people get hung up on things that Jesus wasn’t bothered by?” Few people have the answers I’m seeking. For this reason, I continue praying and reading and having discussions with people. My motive is to grow spiritually and lean on a higher power in my daily life. There’s a quote from the Dalai Lama that I especially like. “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
This seems to be Pope Francis’ religion, too. He is obviously a humble and gentle man who is slow to judge and quick to love. Why do followers of Christ find this difficult? Why do followers of Christ make things more complicated than they need to be? I was having a discussion with a friend earlier this week, and she told me about one of her co-workers who was making unkind remarks and behaving with fierce condescension. The person is also a clergy member. I understand that we all make mistakes. I’m not asking for perfection, but if you are representing Jesus, and you are truly connected to a higher power, it would be my hope (and my expectation) that you would feel some type of remorse about behaving badly. When I say “behaving badly,” I’m talking about treating other human beings with unkindness. It would be my hope that my friend’s co-worker would, at some point, say something like, “You know what? I’m really sorry I treated you poorly the other day. That was wrong, and I hope to do better in the future. Will you forgive me?”
As I was watching the news coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States and I was observing the sea of people crowded in tight places with hopes of catching a glimpse of him, a thought kept coming to the front of my mind. “I wonder what this humble man thinks of all these people rushing to see him? I wonder if he hopes they are not worshiping him. I wonder if he feels uncomfortable with all of the fuss?”
I suspect that he does feel somewhat uncomfortable with all of the fuss. I honestly believe Pope Francis is an authentic man of God. The characteristic that makes this crystal clear is his humility. For those who know nothing about spiritual matters, humility is honey. Have you ever stopped to think how ridiculous it looks when a person turns on the TV and sees an angry preacher telling the world that God hates homosexuality, for example? What good does that do?
Why is it hard for those who claim to be followers of Christ to follow in Christ’s footsteps? Jesus was the one who was always hanging out with “the sinners.” His group of guys got in trouble for “working” on the Sabbath (picking grain from the field), and Jesus reminded the religious people that “The Sabbath was made for man. Not man for the Sabbath.” In other words, chill. Don’t get hung up on all these rules that, by the way, you guys are horrible at keeping, and you only use them to sit back and judge and decide who is going to hell and who is not. I’m sure Jesus was wondering why people would waste their time on this type of thing. Why not just be kind and pray and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit?
I think Christians would benefit and would have a huge positive impact on the world if they would follow the example of Jesus Christ and Pope Francis.