The Pope generated some buzz with his recent comments that the Catholic Church should stop “obsessing” on same-sex marriage, contraception, and abortion. Some have worried that the pontiff is calling for his church to soften it’s position on controversial social issues. I’m not a Catholic, but I believe the man at the Vatican is simply asserting that the Church should preach the whole Gospel, not just the parts related to sexuality. If he isn’t saying that, he ought to!
Slavery was a huge issue in the world when Jesus Christ walked on the Earth, but he never condemned slavery in his sermons. Of course he healed slaves and treated them like regular human beings. He taught his disciples to love their neighbors as themselves, and that would have included slaves. One can only suppose that he wanted slave owners to hear the whole gospel and understand the truth will set everyone free- servants and masters alike. And sure enough, the advance of the Gospel eventually led to the complete abolition of slavery.
Christ’s followers made the First Century Church famous for the way saints cared for prisoners, rescued babies that had been legally abandoned, discouraged legal abortion, and risked their lives to care for neighbors dying of contagious diseases- but they didn’t talk about it all the time. Rather, the earliest followers of Christ worked diligently to teach and preach the pure Gospel- the whole Gospel- even as they spent their time improving the plight of their neighbors. They rarely devoted whole books or even sermons to child abandonment or abortion.
Sometimes, we in the church do obsess on hot button social issues at the expense of the whole Gospel. (We sometimes call it “relevance.”) We also seem to obsess on family, often neglecting to talk about what the Gospel means to single people. More and more Americans are delaying marriage and devoting more resources to self. Analyst Faith Popcorn insists that we have now entered the Age of the Solo Citizen. She calls it “Single-arity,” a time when the never marrieds, the divorced, and the widowed now comprise a major segment of the population in every nation. The Church needs to speak to this growing population of un-marrieds. Yes, the world needs godly families, but people who don’t have families need to hear and apply the Gospel as well.
We must never change the Gospel. It’s the power of God and we must never be ashamed of it. But it’s important that the Church must teach the whole gospel, and we must take it to the whole world- not just to married heterosexuals.
Lift up the Cross!