Basically, Pope Francis is a rock star. He just finished touring South America, where he was mobbed by thousands of cheering people on beaches. There is nothing solemn, reserved, or shy about him. He is magnetic. I’m not a Catholic, but I like this guy a lot.
And as if a successful tour of a continent weren’t enough, Francis really made news while talking to reporters, going off-script, as it were, and uttering these words:
“Who am I to judge?”
You may already know the context of those words. But if you don’t, you can read about it here.
My first thought was, “Who are you to judge??? You’re the freaking Pope, that’s who! You can judge whoever the heck you want!”
But as the utter profundity, the ironic contradiction of the Pope’s words seeped into my mind, I realized something:
That much of my life, my faith has been broken. It’s been saddled with an illness, an illness not unlike obsessive-compulsive disorder. You know, the condition where the guy has to have everything just right, everything in its place.
This is my Obsessive-Compulsive Christianity.
Knowledge is power, right?
I was always the kid who believed that, who soaked up every fact in science class. I never saw science as competing with faith. But I have often believed that knowledge was the same as faith. If I could just gather enough information, if I could just think hard enough about God, if I could just come up with the perfect explanation for this or that, then I would have God figured out, and all my problems would be solved.
A lot of us are in this kind of fact-finding Christianity, because we’re afraid of the “anti-intellectualism” that leads to sloppy theology. So we obsess and nitpick and get stuck in the weeds on the teeniest of theological tidbits.
And you know what? Being a scrupulous detective, gathering all the evidence and demanding a verdict didn’t get me any closer to Jesus. I started to see Jesus most clearly when I realized I couldn’t put him under a microscope and figure it all out. It was when I relaxed my hands and stopped clutching so tightly every assumption I had about Jesus, and embraced his mystery that He finally began to come into focus.
It must be tough to be a germophobe.
I mean, germs are everywhere. I’m only half a germophobe, to the point where when I’m in a public restroom, I’ll leave the water running while I get a paper towel – to turn the faucet off. And I Lysol the markers and pencils in my art room. Think about it.
But what’s even worse is having a germophobic faith – the kind that I’ve struggled with for so long where all I see is the dirt, the grime, all the ugliness and the problems that plague the world.
Seeing the world that way never empowered me to do anything. I never found the strength to just do something. From my perspective, the problems of the world were so great, I didn’t even know where to begin. I just threw up my hands and wanted to give up, feeling helpless, powerless.
Being a clean-freak Christian is no way to live. Because dirtiness is everywhere. None of us are clean. And the world isn’t going to get clean. But the world is also not ours to save. The people of the world are not ours to redeem. That’s God’s job. He doesn’t burden us with every problem of the world. We are just called to our little corners of the world and let God do what He does.
Who Am I to Judge?
And finally, we get to Francis’ words: “Who am I to judge?”
Well, I’m Matt, that’s who I am to judge.
As if it weren’t enough that I thought I had to know everything about God himself, and be paralyzed by all the world’s problems, I have spent so much of my life taking the job of judge upon my shoulders.
The Pope’s words seemed to echo God’s words to Job: “Who are you? Where were you when I created all of this?”
See, I’ve come to believe that as Christians, most of us are pretty impatient with God. We believe that that God can change a person, but that almost never happens on our timetable, so we try to speed up the process to make people conform to us. If the Bible is so clear on the topics we say it is, then why don’t we just distribute Bibles to people and let God do what God does?
Sorry about that. Of course, that would never work. God can’t be trusted to get the job done.
So often, I’ve confused my job description with God’s, because I don’t ask the question, “who am I?”
I am not the judge. I am not the savior. I am just Matt.
I’m trying to be a little less OCD, a bit less obsessed with gathering all knowledge, solving all problems and judging all people. So let’s hear from you. Are you a recovering OCD Christian? What has been your obsession?