Yesterday afternoon, I received an e-mail with the text of a letter from Bishop Lindsey Davis (of the UMC - not a Catholic bishop) calling on Methodists to pray for our Catholic neighbors as the conclave gathers in Rome to elect a new pope. (To read the bishop's letter, CLICK HERE.)
As I read this letter, I was reminded of the way I began and ended my post yesterday morning about the Prophecy of the Popes, and I decided it was important to be clear about some things.
Yesterday, I began by saying:
"After a recent church service, someone asked for my thoughts on the upcoming selection of the new pope. To be honest, I hadn't given it much thought. Not being Catholic, why should I?"Looking back, it struck me that some readers might get the wrong idea. I was not trying to say it doesn't matter who the next pope is. What I meant is that (like many people) I really don't know much about those who may be under consideration, and I haven't spent much time trying to decide which ones I think would be a good choice. As a non-Catholic (who has no vote!), I haven't felt compelled to keep up with/dig into/spend much time on those things.
But the bishop's letter reminds me that just because we Protestants don't accept the authority of the papacy, that doesn't mean it doesn't matter! The pope is still a symbol of Christianity to the world, and he has an enormous amount of influence to shape the direction of the Catholic Church and the way Christians in general are perceived by the world. Non-Christians don't always understand the differences between churches, denominations, etc., and many may not understand that the pope doesn't speaks for us all!
It's important, then, for all of us to pray, as the bishop said, "that those 115 Cardinals will follow the leading of the Holy Spirit" - that the leader they choose will "serve like Jesus", with the same level of humility and care about shepherding people according to the Word of God.
Likewise, when I said near the end of yesterday's post that...
"I don't think we should worry too much about it. Instead we should focus on what's really important..."...I hope everyone understood that I mean we shouldn't worry too much about doomsday prophecies. When the end comes, it won't matter so much that we understood this or that prophecy - what will matter is whether or not we served Christ and lived as he taught!
Sometimes we say things the wrong way. Other times we say things that are just wrong. I hope if someone misunderstood me before, my explanation today clears it up. But I also hope if I say something wrong, people will call me on it and help me to grow! Too often, we're quick to get offended when someone points out our mistakes, but the Bible is blunt in telling us it's better to accept correction and learn from it than to continue foolishly with what was wrong.
"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but those who hate to be rebuked are stupid."
- Proverbs 12:1
- Proverbs 12:1
It's important to be able to admit you don't always have all the answers, and at times, that can be a real struggle! But by really listening to what others have to say, you never know, but you might learn something... or you might actually teach the other person something... or you might learn to communicate better... or you might even learn that you both were wrong, and be able to find a better way forward!
I am blessed because even when I don't get things perfect, God's grace is always there! He uses people, conscience and his Word to correct me, to point out mistakes so I can learn from them. And even when I STILL don't get it right, he offers forgiveness through the blood of Jesus!
"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."I hope you'll join me in praying for the cardinals in conclave and for the new pope - that they will make godly decisions and lead people in a way that honors the Lord - and in praying that we all will be open to it when God wants to correct us!
- 1 John 2:1-2