Pope Francis often refers to rigidity. Recently, during a homily at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican, he said that those who unbendingly follow the law of God are “sick” and in need of the Lord’s help.
Jesus often accuses those who follow the Law with rigidity of being “hypocrites,” the pope said. “The Law was not drawn up to enslave us but to set us free, to make us God’s children,” he said. The pope went on to say that those who have an attitude of rigidity in their law keeping are leading a double life. They need mercy, tenderness, goodness, meekness and humility.
While it is true that keeping God’s law can become a cover for a double life, keeping God’s law in Christ, including the Sabbath commandment will eventually be painted as being inflexible and rigid.
“It is not easy to walk within the Law of the Lord without falling into rigidity” the pope added. Again, while that is true, keeping God’s law in Christ is vital to the witness of God’s true people. The standard is clear.
The pope once said those who try to unbendingly follow the Law of God have “weak hearts.” On another occasion he said that rigid people are “heretics.”
In other words, the pope is downplaying the law of God by criticizing those who try to keep it of legalism. This is an argument borrowed from Evangelicals who often condemn law keepers, particularly Sabbatarians as rigid legalists. Pope Francis’ remarks would resonate with Evangelicals and draw them to him. He is also preparing Catholics and Evangelicals to criticize those who proclaim the Law of God as the standard of God’s righteousness in the last days and accuse them of legalism.
Remember, Pope Francis is a Jesuit master and is a master at spin. He uses a Jesuit concept of “discernment” for which the rigidity of rules is an obstacle. In other words, “discernment” gives the pope and all Jesuits, for that matter, the flexibility to redefine disobedience of God’s law as righteousness and godliness. The pope doesn’t want a definite teaching on every social or theological question, which affects the Church and the world. He wants to be able to interpret God’s law in light of the social circumstances of our times. This is a classic Jesuit approach that leads to the end justifying the means. Of course, it is all couched in words about Christ, humility, helping the poor, etc.
Will God’s true people eventually be accused of legalism and rigidity toward the law of God and society?
“When we reach the standard that the Lord would have us reach, worldlings will regard Seventh-day Adventists as odd, singular, strait-laced extremists. Fundamentals of Education, page 289.
“Those who are conscientiously observing the original Sabbath are styled heretics, deluded fanatics. But who are thus regarded in God’s sight? Whom will he rebuke and punish–those who have kept the day that he blessed and sanctified; or those who, trampling upon the holy commandment, have accepted the institution of the papacy?” Review and Herald, March 18, 1884.