Letters to the Family of God
by Joe Franzone | July 28, 2022 | Pastor's Blog
July 28, 2022
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Compromise used to mean that half a loaf was better than no bread. Among modern statesmen it really seems to mean that half a loaf; is better than a whole loaf.
A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.
Thomas Paine - Common Sense (1776)
Do you ever wonder why and how judgments about what is truth and not truth change over time? How did people believe something with their whole heart is true, only to find out in time that it is not?
For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus said the above quote from Matthew chapter Five, He was correcting something the people had learned as truth for quite some time but was not. It was a lie. How did this happen?
Following this, I wondered how the Roman Catholic Pope became the Pope as we understand him today.
At the beginning of the early church, the apostles were the church leaders. They taught the church sound doctrine just as Jesus taught them. As the church began to grow, out of need, they appointed leaders – pastors and elders to care for, protect and teach the church in each city around the Roman world.
And so, it went on year by year for centuries. Each generation of pastors and elders trained the next generation to preach and teach the truth and expose heresies from crawling their way into the church, as the church continued to grow.
No one pastor was more important than the other. No one pastor had status over the other. The same was true for elders. When there were difficulties in the church and help was needed, they would meet together in council to discuss the problems and make sound decisions together.
The word ‘pope’ comes from the Latin papa, meaning Father. It wasn’t strange in the early centuries for Christians to call their pastor papa or pope. As used, it was simply a term of respect and endearment. As they obeyed and respected their earthly father, they obeyed the teachings from the Scriptures and respected their pastor.
Consequently, no one woke up and said, let's have one earthly head of the church and call him pope. It was more like a slow crawl.
In the 4th century, at the Council of Sardica, the prevailing thought was to give one person headship over any doctrinal disputes. It was meant to be a just-in-case clause. Just in case they could not come to an agreement collectively, one individual would have the final say. However, it did not work out that way.
What Lord Action (1834-1902) said many centuries past the Council of Sardica was correct, power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely. It became doubly true here.
In time the popes would become involved in politics, banking, and land ownership. By the time of the Medieval Age, the pope was the leader of the western church, a powerful political force, a military leader, and a massive landowner. To be fair, some popes cared deeply about the church, but others did not. The protestant reformation was in large part a reaction to these consequences of the Council of Sardica some 1200 years previously.
No doubt, there will be times we ourselves look back and say, how could I have done that, thought that, believed that? This is why we need a Savior. Someone who never had a how could I have done that, said that, believed that moment. It's also why deep humility in life is a gain. We are never as good as we think we are.
Before leaving this earth Paul wrote to his colleague Timothy.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
Human history makes his words speak to us as gold.
God bless you. It continues to be my privilege to serve you in Christ's name.