Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2016
Texts: Isaiah 14:4, 12-15; Ezekiel 28:2, 12-19; John 12:31; Revelation 12:7-16; Luke 10:1-21
Pope Francis is nothing if not controversial. In his relatively short tenure he has stirred up religious discussions the world over with his unconventional views. He has challenged the norms of secularism, Catholicism, and Christianity in general with some very un-Pope-like statements.
Traditionalists jeered and progressives cheered when he stated: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” He irritated both creationists and evolutionists when he took a decidedly middle-ground approach in the creation/evolution debate, proclaiming, “The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it.” He also said that evolution “is not inconsistent with the notion of creation.”1
Recently a newspaper in Britain grabbed the attention of believers and unbelievers alike with this headline: “Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven”. The paper quotes Francis writing to Eugenio Scalfari, who is not a Roman Catholic. Francis wrote: “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying… that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.” This is causing a crisis of faith for some believers while angering atheists at the same time. Some Christians claim that Francis is calling Jesus a liar when He said “No one comes to the Father except by Me” (John 14:6). On the other hand, some atheists claim this makes God a kidnapper since they don’t want to go to heaven in the first place!2
Crises in the church are certainly nothing new. We find the first crisis arising in heaven even before the creation of this world. Lucifer stirred up some un-heavenly conversations with his controversial views on God’s authority. This week’s lesson begins by looking at Lucifer’s fall. He suggested that God was possibly a bit authoritarian, and that he himself could be a more lenient and open sovereign, if only he had the opportunity. By the time his subtle insinuations matured to outright rebellion, heaven’s harmony erupted into a full-blown civil war.
Lucifer’s pride and lust for power led him to get sideways with God and the prevailing view that He is both a loving and just monarch. The result is that God evicted Lucifer and his followers from heaven and they now take up residence in our neighborhood. That first crisis in heaven led to a war that continues today. Now we must decide whose authority we will adhere to—the rebel or the Redeemer.
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