As a follower of Jesus who holds to Protestant doctrines, it seems that I have been conditioned to cling to the Reformation doctrine (which I do) in such a way that I am to be against all other doctrines that comes against it, on paper at least! It also seems that we have done a really good job of putting together really good doctrinal statements that puts to shame those who “didn’t reform” with us 500 years ago. The doctrines of the Catholic church, on paper, I’m sure have done the same thing.
This is problematic because what we believe in writing never matches exactly what we believe by the way we live our lives. If we are honest with ourselves, we know this is true. I understand the need for right doctrine, I’m graduating from a really great theological seminary with a master’s of divinity degree (which I think is a crazy title… master of the divine… hardly!), and I value the men and women who have labored and died over the years to preserve the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ for generations after them to read and to believe.
But in a day and age like ours (many call it postmodern days which means science is no longer “the” god to worship, but that we all have our own truths and there is no “one” single story that is universally true for anyone, which I know is already an argument that contradicts the core of postmodernism), the need for an apologetic of love is so necessary. The need for what Christians (Catholics or Protestants) believe on paper to be radically lived out is among us. People (including myself) are tired of empty rhetoric about the truth of the gospel being proclaimed by those who only love those who love them. John Perkins, the great Civil Rights activists and urban developer, says that “the greatest apologetic to the Christian faith is love.” And in my own words, he goes on to say, “a love that moves into the pain and agony of the people of our day.” Even those who disagree with us!
This is what the Catholic saint (who by the way was never ordained to the Catholic priesthood) Francis of Assisi deeply believed, and his life became the greatest apologetic for the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This picture I took of the statue of St. Francis is found downtown on the property of the second church in the history of Phoenix, St. Mary’s Basilica (3rd St. and Fillmore), and below it is a plaque that has this quote from St. Francis. The words are popular, but they need to re-heard today by Protestants and Catholics today, as I believe the door is opened more now than ever for us to rally around Christ Jesus and love one another better in the spirit of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:
Lord, make me a channel of thy peace,
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.