“Pope stresses spirit over rules” read the front page headline of Saturday’s Kansas City Star.
The article reported Pope Francis’ news conference at the Vatican Friday unveiling his latest 260 page writing entitled “Amoris Letitia” or “The Joy of Love.” According to the article “Francis’ worldwide challenge (is) to minister to the consciences of people in all their fragile imperfections and not be cornered by rigorous doctrine.”
“I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no more for confusion,” Francis wrote. “But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness.”
I’m not an expert on Catholic doctrine, but just a cursory reading of responses by those who are reveals a divide among liberals and conservatives in the Catholic church.
Some see this as a call , as reported by the Star, for a change that “opens the door to broader thinking around divorce, remarriage, love and sex.” Jim Caccamo, executive director of the Ignatian Spirituality Center in Kansas City applauded the direction that Francis is leading saying, “When people in irregular situations feel love, forgiveness and mercy, it causes them to act more comfortable and forgiving in life themselves.”
Apparently the Pope’s paper, while it pleased many progressives, did not proceed far enough in the direction they desire. They are hoping to expand the “Joy of Love” to accept homosexuals and those in homosexual marriages into the fellowship of the Catholic church. While the Pope’s pontifications stopped short of that, they are hopeful for a more merciful day.
ThePreachersWord is more concerned about God’s Word on matters of rules and relationships, morals and mercy, and the joy of love. Consider these four simple observations
(1) The Bible is our guide in all matters of morals and Christian living.
The apostle Peter affirms that we have been given “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). The Scripture, not the writings of mere men, is inspirited of God. It is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). No blog, paper, book or pronouncement of a religious leader can change God’s infallible, eternal guide for the human race.
(2) God is love.
The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, constantly affirms that God is the epitome of love. He loved mankind so much that He sent Jesus on a rescue mission to earth to redeem us from our sins. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
(3) God is also a God of law.
Love and law are not mutually exclusive with God. The Old Testament is filled with statements and examples of God’s love for His people, yet he revealed to them a law to follow. Jesus also calls us to “love one another,” but has given us a law to obey.
Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Lk 6:46). And the Lord says, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).
(4) The joy of love does not exempt us from the law of the Lord.
The Bible speaks often of the joy of the Christian life. “The joy of faith” (Phil 1:25) should fill our hearts and issue itself in fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Peace, patience, kindness and goodness are reflections of a spirit that is in tune with God.
However, love is even called “the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10). Love for God leads us to honor Him, exalt His Word, and obey His laws for our lives (Deut 30:20).
Love does not negate God’s laws on marriage, divorce, sexuality, salvation or sanctification. No man has the right to amend, change or alter what God has revealed to us.
The true call for Christians in this secular age is to love God with all our being. Accept His word. Obey His rules. And share His message to saint and sinner alike in the spirit of love.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman