I frequently drive past a church – Baptist, I think – that has a sign board out front, the kind where they can change up the messages. Most churches around here have welcoming messages, that say things like, “Join us for worship Sundays at 10!” or “VBS starts in June! Sign up today!” But this particular church uses the sign as a pulpit instead. There are usually quotes up there and the quotes are usually, well, pretty aggressive.
Right now, there’s a line from Hebrews 10:11. It says, “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” That’s pretty typical fare for this church. Scripture quotes that drive home the point that no matter how much good you do, it’s not going to save you unless you are also a Christian. As a non-Christian, I always feel pretty insulted by the messages because they seem to be saying to me that my life and my ways of helping in the world have no value because I don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus.
I wonder what the pastor of that church makes of the homily given by Pope Francis this week where he opened the door to acceptance of all people, regardless of faith, who share in the common pursuit of doing good. The new Pope offered this statement:
“They complain … [because they say] if he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good. And Jesus corrects them: ‘Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.’ The disciples … were a little intolerant, closed off by the idea of possessing the truth, convinced that those who do not have the truth, cannot do good. This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon. … The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation.”
Pope Francis went further in his sermon to say:
“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can… The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! … We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
But do good: we will meet one another there.
Yes. Oh yes. Those words bring tears to my eyes. They sound like Gandhi to me, like Martin Luther King, Jr., like Sojourner Truth. They sound like words meant to unite us all. Those words could start tear down walls among faiths, or between the faithful and the faithless. Those words call us all to do good that we might meet our fellow man there.
Life is not a team sport and we don’t need to declare our allegiances. It doesn’t need to be about what church we attend, what political party we favor, what passport we carry. It can be about doing good and reaching out to others who do good. It can be about meeting one another in the places we do good and joining forces to do even more good. Pope Francis sees this and is able to articulate is so simply, so well. I hope other religious and secular leaders hear the truth in his words and follow suit.
I will continue trying to do good in my life, in my fumbling, all-too-human way. Will you meet me there?
Rebekah Kuschmider is a DC area mom with an over-developed sense of irreverence, socialist tendencies, a cable news addiction, and a blog. Rebekah has an undergraduate degree in theatre and Master’s in Arts Policy and Administration and a decade of experience managing arts organizations and advocating in the public health sector. Rebekah also blogs about her life, her thoughts, and her opinions at StayAtHomePundit.com. She was voted one of the Top 25 Political Mom Blogs at Circle of Moms. Her work has also been seen at Salon.com, Redbook online, and the Huffington Post.