It has been week since the new Pope was chosen. I found myself most interested in why I was personally so interested. Why on earth did I find myself waiting for white smoke to rise out a Vatican chimney? Why would a free-Church, Reformation-loving guy like me even care who becomes the 266th Pope? I’ve never really bought into apostolic succession or the primacy of the Roman Bishop. But I’ve never quite thought of him as this either. So why should I care? And why was I so pleased that this particular guy was chosen?
A couple days later, I was reading Carl Trueman’s assessment of the papal election and a few things clicked for me. Trueman apparently doesn’t feel any need to make nice with Rome but with customary wit he gives three reasons why a good Pope benefits every faithful Christian. As I pondered my fascination with the white smoke, I found his answers so similar to mine.*
Here’s why I care about a new Pope:
1) I Care Because We’re Kind Of On The Same Side. The Roman Catholic Church is stubbornly faithful when it comes to important moral issues (most controversially the sexual kind!). When it comes to the value of human life, dignity of the unborn/disabled, definition of marriage, defence of religious freedom, and so on, there is lots of agreement. J I Packer called evangelicals and Catholics ‘co-bellingerants’ on issues that are making us increasingly controversial in society. They have more resources than little independent Protestants like me. Popes have historically been able to avoid falling into clumsy political categories like Left or Right (evangelicals need to learn how to do this and the Pope might be the one to teach us!!!). It therefore, benefits us when their leader is willing to receive scorn and be a counter-cultural ally. Common cause makes good friends.
2) I Care Because We All Look The Same To The World. In a post-Christian culture like ours, a lot of people don’t even know the difference between Catholic and Protestant. Seriously, they don’t ! Take it from someone who does street evangelism and chats with lots of folks. Lots of people just see ‘traditional Christian’. When the RCC looks bad, we look bad. Therefore, for evangelism’s sake it is good when there is a just, honest, non-corrupt Pope. I pray Francis can lead his very large flock that way!
3) I Care Because Catholic Guys Are Smart. When it comes to thinking and articulating how we must live in contrast to the secular world, lots of Catholics can’t be beat. We might not always agree on the solutions but they can sure articulate the problems (and some of the solutions). The last two Popes were certifiable geniuses in my book. When John Paul II said: The sense of God has vanished from the world, my heart sang. He was so spot on! If Francis I is half the man JP2 was, then I will look to him to learn me a few things.
Did I say 3 things? How about a fourth?
4) I Care Because of Jesus (this one is mine alone). If John 17 is really the heart-felt prayer of Jesus *hint, it really is* then we who love Him should long for it to be so. There are differences between me and Francis I that can not be reconciled today. But to look across that estranged divide and not long for visible unity is to not want what Jesus wants. Every Pope that is elected might be one step closer to the day when we can all be one again.
* My three reasons are my own but they are so close to Trueman’s (he’s bigger than me and he beat me to the Internet) that I thought I should link to his.