In a recent interview, Pope Francis said that the Roman Catholic Church had become “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception, so he has chosen not to talk about those issues in the first months of his papacy. He also criticized the Church for putting dogma before love and for prioritizing moral doctrines over serving the poor and marginalized. The Roman Catholic Church needs to become an inclusive church, a “home for all.” Ultimately, Francis says that the Church needs to find a “new balance”or it will lose the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.
As a Protestant/Evangelical I’m not too concerned that Francis is trying to move his Church in a more liberal direction, even though I find it sad. The truth is that we have seen enough of this “inclusiveness” in mainline Protestantism for over a century! But the Pope does raise an interesting point about the “balance” between an emphasis on orthodoxy and a focus on serving the lost and the disenfranchised. In decades past, this was the cry of those in the “social gospel” movement — that the church should be more about helping people rather than teaching people proper doctrine. So do Christians need to be more balanced today?
First off, I don’t think the Pope is calling for a new balance. He is really advocating a new tolerance. Putting “dogma over love” is typically code for allowing people to continue in their sinful ways without criticism or judgment. Making the Church more “inclusive” is only possible when the Church stops calling abortion and gay marriage sins against a holy God. So there isn’t a “balance” between the Pope’s definitions of dogma and love. There are certain doctrines that just must be shelved or permanently deleted in order to offer inclusiveness.
With that aside, maybe we should listen to the criticism that Christians often spend more of their time and efforts declaring Biblical truth and doctrine rather than loving people. We can certainly get more focused on stopping abortions rather than proclaiming the gospel of grace to those desiring the abortion. We can be against gay marriage yet not spend time leading homosexuals to Christ. We can stand for moral righteousness but talk little about the kindness and mercy of God for sinners. So the Church just may need to be corrected.
Yet the Scriptural correction for this problem isn’t balance; it’s CONSISTENCY. The Church needs to CONSISTENTLY CONNECT truth and love as God’s Word commands. It also needs to CONNECT faith with good deeds as God’s Word directs. Teaching people God’s truth about life must be done in a loving way with loving Biblical solutions for our modern problems. Our faith in Christ and trust in the authority of God’s Word must lead us to serve and love ALL people, calling upon ALL to repent and turn to the Savior. While it may seem like holding to the truth and orthodoxy makes the Church unattractive to sinners, it’s quite the opposite. It is only our sin that makes the gospel dull and stinky, not the gospel itself!
Today’s Christian Church needs to consistently speak the truth to ourselves and to the world in love and compassion. We need to preach true “inclusiveness”–that ALL who call on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved!