We were sitting at our dinner table with friends, sharing our stories of conversion. When it was my turn, I told how I came to Christ early on in life while growing up in a dynamic Roman Catholic church. I continued about how my mom later introduced me to Charismatic Catholics, while simultaneously feeding me Moody Radio. I told how three preachers, a Baptist, a Reformed, and a non-denom had shaped my ideas about faith. And then, how evangelical Catholics (they do exist) discipled me through my teen years. And how, as a young adult, I transferred into Protestantism in a Vineyard church (which is, to most, the opposite of Baptist or Reformed). And then shared how friends from Pentecostal, Methodist, and Presbyterian backgrounds had helped me grow in Christ.
One of the friends exclaimed: “That’s an identity crisis right there!”
We all laughed. To a certain extent she is right. I have studied the spectrum of Christian theology. I’ve been involved with many “types’ of Christian faith. Which is why I can say, with boldness, that if you are a Christian of ANY background, you should care about who gets elected to be the next Pope.
I know that some members of the Christian family think that the Antichrist will arise in the form of the Pope. I know some of you are ex-Catholics and want to prove that the church that parented you has no hold on you, and so you stand in apathy as a form of defiance. I know some of you were hurt by the Catholic church – despised, rejected, possibly even abused (to which I mourn with you). I know some of you wish you could wrangle friends and family out of the Catholic church.
There are about 1.19 BILLION Catholics in the world. Some of them are Catholics in name only. Some don’t have the faintest clue who the God they serve really is. But when you’re talking about A BILLION, you’re talking about a lot of sisters and brothers. Don’t fall to the temptation of shoving them aside. And don’t you dare call them crazy cousins. They believe in the same God as you and profess the same core, essential beliefs you do.
They are going to be led, ultimately, by one man. They will put themselves under his leadership, assuming that he will place himself under the headship of Christ. If he doesn’t, they can be led astray, for sure. But more importantly, the rest of the world is watching. And some are watching to see if, as brothers and sisters, we can be divided all the more.
Sometimes I think we’re so worried about doctrine that we’ve forgotten that we can’t stand when we’re divided. We fear being labeled someone who believes in ecumenism.
Let me be clear on this — the problem with ecumenism isn’t us coming together. It’s in us coming together and saying doctrine isn’t important. It’s dismissing that we should have conversation. Ecumenism is dangerous because it keeps us from learning and growing with one another and being able to take a stand together. It keeps us from exhorting one another to make sure “that no one takes you captive, through philosophy or empty deception.” And that we should also take a stand against our leaders when they lead us “in human tradition, and according to the spirit (waves, beliefs, practices) of the world” and NOT according to Christ (col2:8).
But putting our differences aside and standing for one, holy, perfect God who we believe loved us so much that He sent His only son to die on a cross so that we can have forgiveness of our sins and life eternal with Him? Removing our judgement for a second to agree that He does rule and reign as one who has conquered death and risen from the grave? There’s something holy in that.
In that spirit of worshiping the God who saves, and the God who was raised from the dead, and the God who is ALIVE, let us come together, firmly believing that God hears and cares about what we ask Him for. Let us pray that He chooses someone to lead His people, even if that person won’t lead us. Let us pray for someone who hears His voice and responds. Let us pray, even if our prayer is just a deep plea of “Heaven help them pick someone who is OF You, and who will follow You, no matter the cost.”
Because if we don’t, and they pick someone who isn’t true to Christ, we will divide more. We should care when family splits apart. We should just care.
So, as our Catholic brothers and sisters say,
May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you (hopefully as you pray),