There is old idiom that states: You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. I have always understood this to mean that if you are trying to win someone over to your point of view, you have a better chance if you are nice and kind to them rather than if you are condescending, or tell them they are wrong for not seeing things from your point of view. Perhaps at times we have been using vinegar to try to bring people to Christ rather than honey.
It seems lately that everyone has been all a buzz about some comments Pope Francis made during a recent interview. Some media outlets tried to paint the picture that Pope Francis was saying abortion, homosexual behavior, and other moral sins are okay. They completely missed his point. Here is what he said; “Before anything else, the Church, and every Christian, must take as their model the loving, forgiving, Jesus. We must preach the love of Christ in season and out. That’s the Good News.”
I believe that Pope Francis was trying to make it clear exactly what the “good news” is. He stated: “Jesus Christ is Lord and he loves you.” As well-intentioned Christians we have at times in our zeal to call others away from sinful decisions and lifestyles become too focused on the sin (the vinegar) and forget the powerful message of God’s mercy (the honey) for the sinner.
We have all been called to share the good news of salvation and to bring others to Christ. I do not believe Pope Francis was saying that moral conversations are bad or irrelevant, rather he was, I believe, trying to say we could improve the delivery of our message. By reaching out to someone with the message of Christ’s love and mercy we can help start the dialog that may lead them back to Christ.
Love and mercy are God’s message to us. We are all sinners. In John 3: 14-17 we read:”And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
Allow that message to sink in. Jesus, one with God in the Trinity, became man, suffered and died for the atonement of our sins, so that we would not have to pay that price. He loves us that much. In order for us to share the “good news” with others we need to experience it first. We need to realize our own sinfulness and feel the blood of Christ washing over us to free us from sin and restore our relationship with the Father. Then we can be enthusiastic about sharing Christ’s love and forgiveness with others.
Clearly we know that people today are and have been making bad moral decisions. Clearly there are people living lives that are not in accordance with God’s call. But before we get too judgmental we have to look at ourselves and realize our own faults and short comings.
Singer Chris Tomlin in his song “Amazing Grace My Chains are Gone” describes the good news this way:
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace
Through Christ-like love for others we can help them experience this freedom from the chains of sin that this song describes. Through our non-confrontational loving approach, others in need of this freedom can experience a change of direction in their life or a metanoia.
Metanoia is a Greek word meaning a change of heart from sin to the practice of virtue. It means to have a conversion. Paul was living his life opposed to God’s will until he was knocked off his horse on the road to Damascus where he experienced his Metanoia. Today, rather than knocking people from a horse, God wants us to be the cause of someone’s metanoia. He wants us to bring his message of love to those in need. When someone’s moral values run contrary to the teachings of Christ, perhaps what they need most is not a confrontation but to experience the love of Jesus manifested for them through our love and compassion.
In 1957 Meredith Willson wrote the musical The Music Man. It became a popular movie in 1962. In that movie librarian Marian Paroo sang the song “Till There Was You” to Professor Harold Hill. She was expressing her feelings of the changes she experienced in her life after meeting Professor Hill. Later the Beatles versionof the song became a big hit.
There were bells on the hillBut I never heard them ringing,No, I never heard them at allTill there was you.There were birds in the skyBut I never saw them wingingNo, I never saw them at allTill there was you.And there was music,And there were wonderful roses, They tell me,In sweet fragrant meadows of dawn, and dew.There was love all aroundBut I never heard it singingNo, I never heard it at allTill there was you!
The words “there was love all around but I never heard it till there was you,” could be used to describe the feelings a person might experience after they encounter the Christ in you by the love you allow them to experience. “Till there was you”, perhaps this person has not witnessed true Christianity in action.
In the prayer of St. Francis we have these words:
Where there is hatred let me bring your love,Where there is injury your pardon Lord,And where there’s doubt true faith in you.
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope,Where there is darkness, only light,And where there’s sadness, ever joy.
O Master grant that I may never seek,So much to be consoled as to console,To be understood as to understand,To be loved as to love with all my soul.
If we truly want to change the world for Christ we must first reach people where they are. We must reach them with love, compassion, mercy and understanding. I believe this was Pope Francis’ message. When others experience the love of Christ present in us they too will want to know Jesus. Then, in time, the Holy Spirit can bring about the proper response to Jesus’ love which is to repent and be changed. After they experience Jesus, everything will be different for them. Till there was you…
Heavenly Father, you are Love and you are the source of all love. Help me, guide me and direct me to others who are lost in this would and sorely in need of your Good News! Give me the ability to show your love to others and, in doing so, help me to bring them to a relationship with your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, amen.