The Pope was interviewed about a month ago, and gave a list of Ten Keys to Happiness. I liked the list overall. Take the Sabbath off? Much needed and very Biblical! Stop harming the environment? We should be better stewards, indeed! A healthy sense of leisure? Heck yeah!
The ones that made me pause and think for a minute were number one, where the Pope says, “Live and Let Live,” and number nine, where the Pope says “Don’t Proselytize.”
Here in the US, we like the phrase, “live and let live,” and in some sense (and likely the way Pope Francis meant it), it is also very Biblical. Matthew 7 is very often quoted in regards to this – Judge not lest ye be judged. Don’t go looking for the splinter in your brother’s eye when you’ve got a plank in your own eye. Work on your own behavior before you work on someone else’s. But how far do you take this? Are we not supposed to make any judgments as to what is right and what is wrong?
Those who know me well realize that historically, my personality makes it fairly natural for me to be peaceable and courteous most of the time. But I would rather slam my head into a wall than face interpersonal confrontation of any kind, which means that my personality doesn’t as easily lend itself to standing up for justice, disagreeing with the majority, or making disciples of all men. (And that is where we get into number 9, proselytizing.) I would rather suspend judgment completely than have to disagree with you.
But something inside me has started to change. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent a lot of time praying for boldness.
So here is my question: If I don’t challenge myself to confront, well, anything, am I really acting out of love? If I lack the boldness to make my voice heard, am I following Christ? I have a feeling that agreeing with other peoples’ opinions all the time, and ignoring things that I think are immoral or unjust are not what the scriptures (or the Pope, for that matter) are talking about. So while I get “live and let live,” I just don’t think I can have any kind of impact on the world by always following that rule.
I also take the path that there are, in fact, absolute moral truths. People often think that “my truth” can differ from “your truth,” and I tried to buy that for a little while, but it just doesn’t really work. While my perspective may differ from yours, that doesn’t change reality. In other words, the grass is green, a chair is a chair, and child porn is wrong no matter how you slice it. That being said, I also understand that moral issues are often complex, and should be viewed through a lens of love and compassion, not a lens of judgment.
I understand that it may seem presumptuous to say that I have the monopoly on truth. However, it seems equally presumptuous to say that I create my own truth. Unless you spoke yourself into being, we are not the creators, but the created. Therefore, we don’t get to create truth; we just get to discover it. But I can’t imagine that any of us have done this perfectly.
So why proselytize? Sure, I think I know something important and healing and wonderful and beautiful, and I want to share it. But it really rubs some people the wrong way, and some of them have really legitimate reasons why. And isn’t God’s revelation of himself up to God anyway? This is where it gets a little tricky.
To proselytize is defined as inducing someone to convert to one’s own religious faith. I understand very clearly that I am not the voice of God, and I still have much (MUCH) to learn. So while I’m not starting a campaign to say that I’m always right and the rest of the world is wrong, I am interested in sharing my story, using my voice, and defending my beliefs. And in doing so, I may make some judgments about right and wrong (don’t we all, really?), and I may even cross the line into proselytizing. And I’m OK with that. But no worries, Pope Francis. I dig Matthew 7 and I still think you’re pretty great.
So as a person striving to understand who God is and live in a way that reflects God’s goodness, I am hoping that my journey is helpful in showing some part of God’s truth, love and wisdom to others. Or that through this dialogue I will learn to understand God better. Or that I will provide something mildly entertaining for you to read. I’ll be writing in this blog about current events, everyday life, and my faith, and you will probably catch me talking (or blogging, rather) about moral truth or God’s grace in my life. So please don’t be offended. I’m just doing the best I can to speak the truth in love, and it’s a life-long learning process. Hope you’ll join me.