I joined millions of others in watching the biggest news story of the year so far unfold: the announcement of Francis I as the new pope. There was plenty of spectacle: impressive displays by the Swiss Guard, marching bands, excited throngs singing in the pope’s honor, and seemingly baffled news anchors barely keeping up with the action.
In all of the ritual and ceremonial dogma, one specific custom caught my eye. After the presentation of Pope Francis I as the new Bishop of Rome, each of the electing cardinals stepped up to the pope and, in turn, vowed to obey him. A vow of obedience is an enormous responsibility to commit yourself to. It means that you, in essence, are living for that person from that time on and acknowledging that their will is the most important thing in your life.
I had one question in mind after watching it all. Where is God in all of this? The focus on the celebration was clearly on a man—the pope—and the ones who selected him. The cardinals referred to Francis I as their “Holy Father.” Jesus specifically said that titles like that are reserved exclusively for God the Father (Matthew 23:9 Matthew 23:9And call no man your father on the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
American King James Version×).
So is unquestioning obedience. Why was it a big deal for the cardinals to vow obedience to Pope Francis? Because, as leader of the Catholic Church, the pope takes responsibility for and acts as an official representative of the beliefs of his church. And frankly, some of those beliefs just aren’t biblical, like Sunday worship, Mary reverence and a Friday to Sunday crucifixion timeline.
The apostles faced religious leaders who demanded obedience to themselves instead of God. They had the right perspective. The apostles responded to them, “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29 Acts 5:29Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
American King James Version×, New Living Translation). The cardinals made their choice, and they decided they would obey a man. You have the same exact choice to make right now. Will you obey a man? Or will you obey the God who created the universe, the true Holy Father of all?