Self-righteous people disturb Christian community, pope says

There’s a big divide between the self-righteous and the people who proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, says Pope Francis.

This is because where the self-righteous are inclined to heap conditions upon others and promote themselves as the only “keepers of the truth”, those who proclaim the Gospel are humble and trust in God.

The disturbances to the Christian community and risks posed by the self-proclaimed righteous are much the same today as the situations illustrated in St Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, he says.

He is planning to discuss the Letter – which he describes as being “important” in a new series of talks at his weekly general audience.

“I would even say [the Letter’s importance is] decisive, not only for getting to know the apostle better, but above all in considering some topics that he addresses in depth, showing the beauty of the Gospel.”

The themes of “freedom, grace and the Christian way of life are extremely topical since they touch on many aspects of the life of the church in our days. It is a very relevant letter. It seems written for our times,” Francis observed.

Issues of today appear in St. Paul’s “fiery” concern for the new communities of Gentile Christians being pressured by some preachers to adopt Jewish practices such as circumcision.

St. Paul was a pastor, who, “like a father or mother, immediately notices the dangers his children face” as they grow in faith, Francis said.

He explained that the self-righteous preachers “began with doctrine — ‘this no, this yes’ — and then they denigrated the apostle.

“As we can see, it is the ancient practice of presenting themselves on certain occasions as the sole possessors of the truth — the pure ones — and trying to belittle the work of others with slander.”

The result was that the new Christians were confused and worried, Francis said.

These days too “there is no shortage of preachers who, especially through the new means of communication, can disturb the community. They present themselves not primarily to proclaim the Gospel of God who loves humanity in Jesus, crucified and risen, but to insist, as true ‘keepers of the truth’ — that’s what they call themselves — on the best way to be Christians.

“They strongly affirm that the true Christianity is the one they adhere to, often identified with certain forms of the past, and that the solution to today’s crises is to go back so as not to lose the genuineness of the faith.”

One of these people’s recognisable characteristics is their “rigidity,” Francis said. “Before the preaching of the Gospel which makes us free, which makes us joyful, these people are rigid.”


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