Pope Francis stirred the waters this week off the shores of Copacabana Beach, Brazil, declaring, “Who I am to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord? You can’t marginalize these people.” Soon after those words left the pontiff’s mouth, a firestorm of debate erupted.
Did Pope Francis demonstrate a change in the Catholic church’s position on homosexuals? Or, was the pontiff just demonstrating his pastoral love for sinners? There has been much stated and debated about Pope Francis’ words regarding homosexuals, but let’s for just a moment focus on the overarching element to his message, “You can’t marginalize these people.”
Regardless of the issue, marginalization has been a technique adopted by the church historically to bring division and destruction to others. Whether a person is a homosexual, an immigrant, or an individual of deep conviction opposite our own, what good comes from marginalizing them on the fringes of the debate, the church, or the community? Absolutely none.
Our first reaction to challenging issues like these is to often lash out with judgmental tones, concrete statements, and harsh rhetoric. Pope Francis simply reminded the Christian world, we are not called – using the words of Jesus – “to condemn the world.” We are simply called to love others as we ourselves would want to be loved.
Therefore, drawing from that simple conclusion reveals one of two things about us Christians: (1) We ignore the words of Christ or (2) we don’t love ourselves very much. First, Christians have mastered the art of talking about Jesus with little regard to following what he actually said and did. We are more concerned with what a person believes about Jesus (or more so about some cultural/political issue of the day) rather than how one mimics his life. Without implementation of belief, belief alone is a shallow pond to wade.
Second, if the truth be known, we really don’t love ourselves all that much. Yes, I know, we are called the most selfish generation to ever walk the earth, but that selfishness surfaces from a deep chasm of fear. We fear rejection because of our imperfections, thus we marginalize others so we won’t be. If only we could see ourselves as God sees us, then we might be able to see the world through his eyes as well.
The most shocking truth from Pope Francis’ remarks were not about homosexuals, but about our inability to include others in our lives. That inability to be hospitable and inclusive says more about us than it does about anyone else. Yes, we know we are called to love others, but we will do so at arms length, even pushing them to the fringes. My prayer is simple, may we all find the spirit of inclusivity in order to love the world as we have been taught.