Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God. For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition.
In Mark Chapter 6 Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees as to why his disciples do not follow long held Jewish religious traditions. Specifically they are asking why the disciples do not complete the hand washing ceremony before eating. When Jesus answers them you almost get the feeling that He had been holding this one in a while because He pretty much goes off on the Pharisees. They are talking about ceremonial hand washing, but Jesus takes the opportunity to challenge all of their man made laws and traditions. You know He has something deeper on His mind because in verse 13 He states:
And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”
Verse 13 has really hit home with me, especially because of what I see happening in society and certain Christian denominations.
At first I was hesitant to tackle this subject because I knew it would be controversial. I actually wrote this and have been sitting on it for a couple of weeks praying and asking others if they thought I should post it. I came to the conclusion that there is right and there is wrong and as God’s people we must stand on the side of right especially when we are talking about the truth of God’s Word.
So this week I am going way out on a limb and addressing the Pope’s recent comments regarding homosexuality.
Before I get started and before you click away from the post, let me first explain what this post is not going to be about. It’s not about judgment and it’s not about hate. It’s honestly not even about homosexuality. It’s not an attack on the gay community. The only reason homosexuality is in the conversation is because this is what the Pope’s comments addressed. What this post is about is distinguishing between the truth of the Word of God and church dogma and the dangers of creating dogma that is direct conflict with the Word of God.
Let’s look at the Pope’s comments.
In speaking to a homosexual man named Juan Carlos Cruz about his sexual abuse at the hands of priests the Pope told Mr. Cruz:
“Juan Carlos, I don’t care about you being gay. God made you that way and loves you as you are and I don’t mind. The pope loves you as you are, you have to be happy with who you are.”
Before I break down the Pope’s statement, there is one thing we must agree on as Christians and that is the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God. Or, better yet, as Voddie Baucham so brilliantly put it:
“The Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eyewitnesses during the life time of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies, and they claim to be divine rather than human in origin.”
If you say you are a Christian, no matter your denomination, you have to believe this. On that premise, let’s take a closer look at the Pope’s statement.
First – “Juan Carlos, I don’t care about you being gay.”
I don’t want to put words in the Pope’s mouth. Maybe he’s just trying to say he loves Juan because he is a child of God. Maybe it’s a “Love the Sinner but Hate the Sin” sort of thing. If so, that’s not how it came out. Essentially what the Pope said was that he doesn’t care about sin. I know that stings a bit, but yes, homosexuality is a sin. (1 Corinthians 6:9-20, Romans, 8:27, Hebrews 13:4, 1 Timothy 1: 9-10, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13…)
This would be no different than if the Pope told me he didn’t care about any sexual relationships I may have had before being married or that he didn’t care that my wife and I lived together prior to being married. In my mind the Pope should be concerned with ALL the sins of his congregation, especially the unrepentant sin.
Second – “God made you that way and loves you as you are and I don’t mind.”
Here I believe the Pope got it partially wrong. God did not make Juan this way. Now I don’t want to get in this debate of “born that way” vs. “chose to be that way”, but God does not make gay people gay. It’s pretty clear in the Bible that sin did not come from God. Sin came from man. It started with the fall when Adam and Eve decided to use the free will God gave them to disobey Him. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God sin, disease, sickness, evil, corruption, death, destruction all entered the world and has been here ever since.
What the Pope did get right in this part of his statement is that God loves Juan. God loves all of His children despite of their sin. That in lies the hope for us all. Through the Cross we are brought back into relationship with God but we need to make the decision to choose Him.
Last – “The pope loves you as you are, you have to be happy with who you are.”
Again, the Pope partially got it right and partially wrong.
We are all called to love. That is what Jesus’ ministry was all about. In Matthew Chapter 22 we learn that the greatest commandment involves love – loving God and loving our neighbor.
Where I think the Pope went wrong was when he stated,“you have to be happy with who you are”. This isn’t simply being happy with where you are in life or in your circumstance, what the Pope intentionally or unintentionally said was “be happy with your sin”. We should never be happy with our sin. We should be repentant and striving to move away from our sins. That’s not to say that we don’t repent and then struggle with the sin. We all do that. The goal is to repent, ask for forgiveness and work to not sin anymore.
I understand this is a very sensitive subject because the Pope’s statements revolve around homosexuality. Again, this is not a judgment on one man’s sin or about hating a man because of his sin. It’s no different than a heterosexual couple living together, having sexual relations and operating as a married couple outside of the covenant of marriage. God knows I have committed some pretty wretched sins in my life that I could be judged and hated for. I struggle with sin everyday. If I had one of those signs you see at construction sites that state how many days since the last safety incident except mine would have how many days since last sinned the number on the sign would be a big fat ZERO! My sins may not be the same as yours, but never the less they are sins. Therefore, I don’t hate and try my best to not judge anyone. Another man’s sin is between him and God. I’m called to love, so that is what I strive to do everyday. I also refuse to justify my sin by ignoring, twisting or changing God’s Word. What I will do is get on my knees everyday and beg God for His forgiveness for those areas that I fall short, ask Him to do a work in me to help me turn away from those sins and thank Him for His Love and Grace that He shows me.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 says:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Paul’s letter to Timothy speaks to exactly where we are today as a society. We have normalized certain sins so we don’t have to feel bad about ourselves. This is very slippery slope. As we see with the Pope we now have religious leaders making comments in direct conflict with the Bible to justify sins that have become societal norms.
This is extremely dangerous, especially coming from the Pope. Let me explain why.
In the Catholic Church dogma (a definitive article of faith) can either be promulgated by the college of bishops or by a spoken statement of the Pope. The Pope also has Papal Infallibility, which is another Catholic Church dogma that states “in virtue of the promise of Jesus to Peter, the Pope is preserved from the possibility of error when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.”
Based on the process dogma is created within the Catholic Church and the position and authority of the Pope, his statements could be viewed as new dogma for the Catholic Church. This is both concerning and extremely dangerous. No man has the authority to create dogma, doctrine or law that is directly goes against God’s Word.
I was part of the Catholic for many years of my life and have had much respect for many of the men that have held the office of the Pope. That being said I think it is of the utmost importance that we not put our faith and trust in any man. No man is greater than our Lord and His Word and as such we must keep our Faith in our Father in Heaven.
I encourage you to read your Bible everyday to ensure you get the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth…
Be blessed my friends!