On March 13, the Catholic Church, whose global membership is estimated at 1.2 billion elected former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina as Pope Francis I. He became the first Latin American to head the Catholic Church.
The new pope seems set on the revival and renewal of the church. A day after he was elected, he called for a return to the church’s roots and warned that the church, which has been at the centre of many scandals risked becoming little more than a charity with no spiritual foundations if it failed to undergo renewal.
When he celebrated his first mass as pope, Francis I told Catholic Cardinals that the church could “end up a compassionate NGO,” and also warned them against “the worldliness of the devil”. As cardinal, he was critical of Argentina’s decision to legalise same-sex marriage, calling it “a destructive attack on God’s plan.” He also opposed gay people’s adopting children.
I hope that his stance resonates with the whole body of Christ, and not just the Catholic Church, and that the Church revisits the importance of the Lord’s presence in Genesis 18 before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
One of the three visitors was the Lord God himself and in verses 16 to 18 before Abraham pleaded for Sodom and the Scripture reads: “When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way.
Then the Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
As believers we trace our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ through Abraham. Which means that we are part of the household after Abraham that is expected to keep the way of the Lord, by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he had promised him. We can interpret in various ways in order to accommodate homosexuality, but this Scripture forms the basis of what the Lord desires of us. The world waits patiently to hear about the renewal that Pope Francis is seeking.
What does the word of God say about renewal and revival? A commonly used scripture is 2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV (King James Version): “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Hope Ministries (www.hopeministries.biz) says: God wants His people to return to the point before they displeased God, to enter back into the relationship with Him, to repent of their sins and allow Him to bless them.
God wants his people to stop disobeying Him, to stop doing evil, to put away our wicked ways, and live lives of righteousness, according to His will and His standards. God wants His people to live our lives choosing to do good and choosing not to do evil, to be blameless, that is; to be righteous.
We find an example of this in the Bible when God spoke to Abram or, as he became known Abraham and told him to live his life in a blame manner, or to walk before God and be righteous. (Genesis 17:1)
Jesus gives a similar command in Mathew chapter 5, as the one God gave to Abraham in Genesis chapter 17. “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”. (Matthew 5:48 NASB)
To add, “To use New Testament terminology, to turn from your wicked ways is calling His people to repent from their sins. What is repentance? Repentance is changing our thought process to think in the ways of the Kingdom of God, instead of thinking in the ways of the world. Romans 12:2 says it more clearly,
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect”.
Pope Francis’ humility and rejection of pomp and ceremony has already earned him admiration from various quarters, including non-Catholics. He has given the Church body hope and an opportunity to do some introspection and return to the basics about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We pray that the Spirit of the Lord will guide him always as he leads the Catholic Church back to the basics as they are written in the Bible.