On the 15th of April 2018 Pope Francis visited a housing estate on the outskirts of Rome, upon his visit he was met by crowds of people and one boy in particular has captured the hearts of many people around the world. Emanuele asked the Pope if his father, who was not a believer, was in heaven. The Pope went on to say that surely his father was in heaven because he was a good man, had his children baptised and saying that God did not abandon His children.
Here is why I think that the Pope said is dangerous, and why I’ll take Jesus’ word over who will be in heaven over the Pope’s.
The reason the Pope’s words are dangerous is because, whether he knows it or not, thousands if not millions of people look to the Pope for their understanding of Christianity. Therefore, based on his comments the other day, people could deduce that if they are good and get their children baptised that they themselves become children of God and will be allowed into heaven.
Articles have been written praising the Pope’s inclusiveness and people are sharing posts on social media about this most recent Francis moment, and the problem is that this is portraying a wrong picture of Christianity and it is sowing seeds of false hope.
Here is what Jesus has to say on the matter…
During Jesus’ life He never elevated religious practices beyond what they were, he never gave people false hope because it was seen as the ‘nice thing to do’, Jesus spoke very directly to people about the reality of what happened to those who did not turn and believe in Him.
Take the beginning of Luke 13, for example, people report the deaths of some people to Jesus and he quashes any idea that this was a judgment because they are more sinful than other and responds twice with these direct but true words “But unless you repent, you too will all perish” Luke 13:3 and 13:5.
Or, just further on in Luke 13 in verses 22-30 Jesus answers the question ‘will those who are saved be few?’ In response to this question Jesus doesn’t burst into a ‘hell fire and brimstone sermon’ but he responds with an illustration. Jesus says that the way to salvation, meaning to be made right with God and to spend an eternity with Him in heaven, is a narrow door and people need to strive to enter by it. Those who do not strive to enter through this door and who miss their opportunity might stand and knock and beg to be let in, but they will be cast out into the place that we know as Hell (described in verse 28).
The only way a person can be saved, be in a right relationship with God and be freed from the rightful punishment of their sins, is to believe in Jesus, to repent and be forgiven by Him. That is the one true hope, that is the truth of Christianity and that is the abounding Grace of God.
These two messages are completely different, one says that heaven is an open door for nice people, and the other says that heaven is not a door that you can stumble across.
I’ll take Jesus’ word for it because it is only through Him that passage into heaven is granted through His sacrifice on the cross, and I’d warn people of the Pope’s message because it sows the seed of false hope for people who give no second thought to God in their lives.