One of the problems we have all discovered in the endless email vs. phone conversation discussion is the matter of tone. It is very hard to put nuances in those black and white emails, despite emoticons, underlining, capitals etc. And that leads to misinterpretation.
I point this out only because we are all witnessing a remarkable shift in tone on the global front. My reference, of course, is to Pope Francis. It matters little if one be Roman Catholic or not. The man has captured both headlines and the attention of the world. Why?
He has not turned any dogma of the church upside down. He has not moved any of them one hairs-breadth. But he has changed everything by his tone. This is a smiling man who has restored joy to the pursuit of good. He, steadfastly and with joy, says, “Who am I to judge?” and then proceeds to live by his self-imposed rule.
One has to think of Jesus sitting down to breakfast with Peter after that apostle denied he had ever heard of him or Jesus reaching across taboos to heal a bleeding woman or that same Lord dining with a hostile Pharisee who had denied him every courtesy. Jesus gently but firmly teaches him an unforgettable lesson about hospitality as a prostitute crouches at his feet. One could see Francis doing something similar.
In our world that is increasingly dividing itself into “sides” that are utterly one thing or the other, the pope is refreshingly reminding us of the need to temper our positions with some genuine Christian love, a love that has to be braced by joy. Can we hold fast to our principles without adding anger to our righteousness? What would happen if political opponents smiled at each other across the aisle before discussing things? Incidentally, have you smiled at anyone today?
Genuine Christian joy is transformative. Embrace it and find out why.