“Richie” preaches in Yukon, Oklahoma. When visiting the coffee shop, he wears cowboy boots, jeans, and an OU Sonner football cap.
One day, I see him studying the bible and juggling it with a laptop and cell phone. He reminds me of how I study and meditate.
We joke about the various technological advances in our work environment, but at some point in our conversation, we are no longer equal. He wishes to sell Christianity to me.
I know well the great commission: Go forth and spread the gospel. I have seen this method destroy good people who may have been open to Christianity if approached in a different format.
These days, all religions need a different approach, and I believe Pope Francis has found the right language to confront the issues of the 21st Century.
Let’s simply begin with the tweets of Pope Francis to see how the great commission can change the heart of others without this friction between believers and non-believers.
A Few Tweets from Pope Francis:
God does not reveal himself in strength or power, but in the weakness and fragility of a newborn babe.
Before the Nativity scene, may we pray in a particular way for those suffering persecution for the faith.
Let us pray that God grant us the grace of knowing a world where no one dies of hunger.
If we see someone who needs help, do we stop? There is so much suffering and poverty, and a great need for good Samaritans.
Let’s try to be open to God’s word, and open to the Lord’s surprises when he speaks to us.
The Pope deserves our respect as he continues to re-define the Catholic Church and enliven the social gospel of Jesus Christ. Though he speaks of God and Jesus in every quote, the message is for the poor and oppressed. (We all suffer, so I place everybody in this category!) Imagine a world where we can view God or other people like the “fragility of a newborn babe.” What if we looked at each other with a nurturing smile of a mother? What if we gazed into the eyes of the poor and embraced them with a full heart? What if we forgot about the Christian or religious sales pitch and listened to the “surprises” of our creative conversation?
I do not care much for institutionalization of religions. They stagnate the hunger of our hearts, yet Pope Francis embraces human qualities that we all need in our lives if we plan to find spiritual nourishment. Therefore, I am rooting wholeheartedly for the Catholic Church to evolve and flourish!
Richie will probably be at the coffee shop next week. If I see him there, I plan to strike up a conversation with him again. No sales pitch. No defense mechanisms on either side. May we find some kind of creative journey together without worrying about our different religious heritages!