“The enemy has kept many Christians from loving one another as Christ loves us and have failed to recognize the importance of supernatural unity even with all of the unique diversity,” Robison wrote in the Huffington Post article. “We know it is God’s will for those who have been born from above to become bold witnesses for His glory and Kingdom purpose and to go into all the world and make disciples of Christ. We have been commanded to love God with all of our heart and our neighbors as ourselves.”
We can explain the growing friendship of Evangelicals and Catholics as the result of culture: two once-dominant and now increasingly marginalized groups find each other to be allies in their marginalization, while sharing a belief in the moral law much of their society rejects. They find themselves friends, like the lonely kids on the playground who won’t have any friends if they don’t band together or the nerds in the computer club everyone else teases.
That’s certainly a reason. But what Robison calls supernatural unity seems to be a reason as well. In this meeting and others I’ve attended, people sharply divided by the Reformation felt themselves brothers not only because they found themselves huddled together in the cultural doghouse, but because they shared a friendship with the Lord. I suspect Francis saw this in his meeting, that he knew that he and the Evangelicals met, as Robison writes, “in the presence of the Lord.”
Meeting in the presence of the Lord does not erase the real differences. Whether those hosts in the Tabernacle are really Jesus or only pieces of bread remains a serious and divisive question, and a difference that epitomizes all the others. That two men share a close friendship with Jesus does not mean they will agree. One friend may be quite wrong about what Jesus wants. He may not be listening very well.
But Evangelicals and Cathoilcs see more and more that they are friends, not just allies but friends, and that counts for a lot in this world. I would never in a million years high five the pope. But I’m pleased that James Robison felt he could, and in fact that he felt he must.
former executive editor of First Things, is a writer and author of Discovering Mary. His webblog can be found at www.patheos.com/blogs/davidmills.