Saturday, May 30, 2015

Learning from a Cardinal

While I'm fond of the bird, and don't mind either major sports team by that name, the lesson to which
Cardinal Francis George,
who passed away April 17
I'm referring is from a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. Let me share it with you.

Cardinal Francis George, retired archbishop of Chicago, passed away on April 17. Cardinal George was seen as a theological conservative within the Roman Catholic Church, and was not afraid to engage very publicly on issues from abortion to the gay rights movement. He often expressed concern over what he believed was the eroding of religious liberty in the USA.

Now, I am not an expert on Cardinal George's theology or pronouncements. But before his death he made a statement that has a powerful ring of truth that I find sobering and motivational.

This is what he said:
It is likely that I will die in my bed. My successor will die in prison. His successor will die executed in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history."
I'm not sure about his timing--after all, his successor is in place. But he may be right--the time that it has taken for Christians of conviction to go from respected, to ignored, to targeted for their beliefs and practices

I'm not committed to his more positive ending scenario--if the Lord does not set in motion his judgments of the final days, then yes, Christians may be privileged to rebuild culture. But these may well be steps that move our world inexorably toward the day of the Lord, for which we earnestly pray because it will vindicate God's people and bring ultimate glory to the Lord.

But what struck me was the Cardinal's mindset. He saw what is going on, and what Christians (of all stripes) have taught and believed down through the ages, and understands the inevitable conflict that is ahead. And he wasn't encouraging us to believe that the tide will turn quickly.

As a pastor in a small town with lots of Christians around, it might be easy for me (and for all of us) to dismiss such thoughts, especially from a source that represents a very different take on our faith. But I just read the comments of an unidentified pastor from Niger, whose church was burned just a few months ago and who was leading his people in worship in the rubble just days later. His comment on this: "We knew this was in the Bible."

Do we know it, too?