Pope Francis visit brings faith into politics

Pope Francis visit

Pope Francis with US President Barack Obama

PRAYER ALERT for Pope Francis visit. The Pope Francis visit to the US ended Sunday in Philadelphia. He spoke out on a broader range of political issues than any pope in recent memory. He acknowledged that he did not speak with the authority he had on Catholic doctrinal issues. But so he set an example for evangelicals who too often shy away from the issues of the day. In nations where there is freedom of religion and freedom of speech, Christians ought to speak out more. Because they don’t, non-Christians are setting the course for the US. It is a nation that was founded on Christian principles. But it is becoming hostile to any public expression of Christian principles.

So it is good to see the media and the government welcome the Pope Francis visit. He has a humble, warm and winning personality that is irresistible. The pope is intent on overcoming the image of Catholic authorities as being distant, formalistic and judgmental. He is opening his arms to divorcees and making it less difficult for Catholics to remarry. He has dispensed with many security measures to personally greet the poor, the sick and prisoners. He has exhorted us to actively love them and to welcome immigrants into our communities, whether they are legal or not.

It is one thing for the church to show mercy to prisoners and to welcome strangers, as Christ calls us to do. It is another thing for the government to do so. The church is God’s instrument of mercy. The government is God’s instrument of punishment. In Romans 12, Paul says to “Practice hospitality”, even to the point of feeding your enemy. But in Romans 13, Paul says that the government is to “bring punishment on the evildoer.” The church is to bring evildoers to the Lord. The government is to bring evildoers to the law.

The two should never change places. In the past, the Catholic Church had taken the government’s role of punishing evildoers. It once ruled nations and enforced laws. It practiced capital punishment and waged war on militant Muslims. But the Church laid down its sword long ago. Pope Francis is trying to live down that draconian image. Yet he goes too far in calling governments to lay down their swords too

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