Really, it boggles my mind that anything can be said to be the “first time in 600 years.” The continuity of Catholic history is so much larger than even our own American culture. (Anyone ever watch Eddie Izzard’s standup? “I’m from Europe, where history comes from.”)
It may be easy to watch in curiosity at this turn of events, or let it pass by unnoticed. Some people like to take another opportunity to mock the Pope and the Catholic church.
But I think Benedict has actually done a great thing by resigning. I think it will actually be his greatest legacy.
This is why, for one of the first times in my life, I’m cheering for a quitter.
Sometimes, Quitters Do Win
Benedict, in my Protestant opinion, was destined to be kind of a historical asterisk. John Paul II would be a tough act to follow for anyone. Benedict was already elderly when elected, and he really had no chance to match the legacy and charisma of his predecessor. There would be no accomplishment he could achieve as Pope that many people would remember.
But people will remember him now. He just earned his spot in history. The first Pope in 600 years to do something. He shocked the world…
…Just by quitting his job.
And in quitting his job, he not only sealed his legacy, but actually made a more positive impact than he ever could have by keeping his job.
Permission to Quit
Our church culture demands a lot of leaders, and often rewards them very little. It is little wonder that church ministry in particular is riddled with pastors who are unhappy, or unable to do what is demanded of them. But they feel trapped, they hang on in desperation, until they finally burn out and crash.
Benedict has done an amazingly courageous thing for future Popes, priests and pastors of all stripes (along with the rest of us). He’s given permission to quit. He’s been vulnerable in admitting that he cannot do what he feels the job requires of him. The fact that he leads millions of Catholics, and is world-known makes his vulnerability all the more incredible.
Benedict has set a new precedent: that leaders don’t need to burn out. They don’t need to be a heartbreaking public spectacle as their health fades. If the Pope can give up the biggest church leadership post in the world, any leader can do the same.
The Character of a Quitter
Why is George Washington so revered?
Because he led the continental army, and he was the first President…
…and because he quit his job.
George Washington set a positive precedent for the future leaders of the country and put the finishing touches on his legacy just by stepping down.
That’s the difference between a leader and a tyrant, isn’t it?
Ultimately, we often learn the most about a man’s character when he relinquishes power, than when he takes on power.
Wasn’t Jesus’ mission most fulfilled when he gave up the most power and control?
What do you think? Have you ever had a hard time quitting, out of pride or a sense of obligation to others?