Refusing to Engage in Conflict Methodology

As featured in the Island Packet

Pope Francis has been drawing a lot of attention early in his papacy, but it isn’t because of the reasons one might assume. It is because he has refused to engage in conflict methodology that has ravaged society and contemporary church.

In mid September Pope Francis stated that the church has grown “obsessed” with preaching about hot topic issues of abortion, gay marriage and contraception and that he has chosen not to address those subjects to date even in spite of harsh criticism of such action.

He was quoted as saying: “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all of the time… We have to find a new balance otherwise the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

He furthered his comments saying “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person.”

Pundits on both sides have accused the pope of being too liberal, not outspoken enough on the issues that they support, and some even too conservative still because his words have not been backed by changes in church doctrine. Some have alleged that his words are simply a pragmatic attempt to enlarge the Roman Catholic Church by creating a “big tent.”

To be clear though, the pope hasn’t changed the Roman Catholic Church’s theology on these hot button issues one iota. He hasn’t admitted to holding an incorrect theology. He hasn’t agreed to reform any beliefs that he holds to be true. In fact I would argue the exact opposite. What he has done is that has refused to be baited into a conflict methodology with folks. This is not just wise, it is biblical and I think that it is generally a prudent teaching for all people.

There are plenty of people in this world who would love nothing more than to pick a fight with us and it is almost impossible sometimes to understand such reasoning. Many times people stand to profit in other ways or they are trying to somehow address old or even fresh wounds that they carry with them. But to enter into such conflict does nothing to further the love of Jesus Christ or good in this world. The pope knows this.

Of course, this though does not mean though that the pope will have an easy road ahead of him. Actually, to evade conflict is far more difficult than to engage in it. To love people even when they appear unlovable is even harder. To be sure, this intentionality of peace will begin the long road of criticism and persecution that Pope Francis will face. People hate it when you don’t take their side; don’t go along with their plans, and they don’t get their way.

But ultimately, following Jesus Christ is not about getting “our way” it is actually quite the opposite. It is understanding that in order to really live in God’s fullness we must be willing to risk ourselves at any cost to be loving. Even in the face of criticism – even at the risk of others having negative impressions of us – we must work to extend Christ’s blessing in order to be faithful to the Lord we serve.

And sometimes, as the pope has shown us, that simply means not engaging in what everyone else wants to press you on.