One of the most painful things that God does to us in our lives is to rip away our idols from our trust. He does this in many ways. Throughout our lives, our sinful hearts are prone to trust in things other than the Triune God and that same God tears down the foundations of such falsely placed trust. It’s a beautiful and gracious thing in hindsight but while you are going through it it is as painful as it gets.
There is an ongoing situation in the Roman Catholic Church concerning the sexual sins and rampant abuse conducted by its priests. This scandal has led to even the highest office in Rome, the Pope. Now, as Lutherans, it’s easy for us to poke fun at the Pope or to disregard him, but let’s see what is actually happening here for many Christians within the Roman church – God is ripping away their false trust in order that Christ by faith may receive the honor and glory due to Him.
For some, this has already happened with the current Pope’s activism and imprecise language that is twisted and turned by the media, but here we have an implication of cover-ups that reaches all the way to their Pope. God is revealing a false trust and such revelation will be handled in many various ways among Roman Catholics. Some Roman Catholics may actually be seeking answers in the face of the situation and Lutherans are well situated to give an answer for the hope that is in us.
What can we as Lutherans do in this case? We can be who God baptized us to be as Lutherans. This means we can pray for those who are having their idol of the Pope ripped from them. God has both commanded us to pray and promised to hear our prayers. This means that we can pray for opportunities to speak the hope that is within us, to remind them of the God who has so loved them by becoming incarnate, fulfilling the law of God, suffering a complete and final atoning sacrifice for them, risen from the dead for our justification, and has given His Word of both Law and Gospel to go out through the world.
We can brush up on the Lutheran Confessions (Augsburg, Smalcald, and the Treatise to be precise) and what they say about the differences between us and Rome so that we can talk to Roman Catholics who have questions about the faith. We can learn for ourselves why it is we have married clergy and why marriage is a blessing and good thing in the face of the world’s evil perversions of it. We can, while holding fast to our confession that the Papacy is the very Antichrist, express compassion for those who have been under his dreadful rule. We can bring them the inexpressible joy and freedom that only the pure Gospel can give.
We can brush up on the ways in which the Roman Catholic Church tries to inoculate its members against Lutheranism with lies and slander against Dr. Luther or accusations about our churches (antinomians, licentiousness). We should never forget in all of this that the only thing which will show them the truth, however, is the very Word of God.
We can worship as Lutherans worship. We can use our catholic liturgy and traditions meant to uphold the pure preaching of the Gospel and right administration of the Sacraments. We can show ourselves as heirs of not only the Reformation but also of true catholicity. Our worship exemplifies the doctrine that God has given to us after removing our idols. Our worship provides the pure Gospel our Roman Catholic neighbors need.
We can get our own household of faith in order. Sins of the nature of what is being reported of the Roman Catholic Priests are not unique to Rome. What stance do we have on the abuse of pastoral authority? How firm is our ecclesiastical supervision on these matters? What do we believe about fitness for office? What admissions policies do we have at our seminaries for those who exhibit perversions that lead to this abuse? How do we safeguard the blessing of the Divine Call, the Office of the Ministry, and also the care of souls dearly baptized of Christ? What spiritual care can pastors provide for those who have been so shamefully treated by such wolves in shepherd’s clothing? How can hearers help one another bear one another’s burdens in love and patience? What does that look like? How can congregations build up appropriate guidelines or policies to try to protect both pastors and hearers?
These are just some starting points. As Lutherans, it may be a good time to discuss what we can do to help others since God is breaking down idolatry all around us (as he constantly does within us as well).