Crossing the line from Admiration to Worship

One of the most interesting aspects of the recent visit to the United States by Pope Francis was how people responded. It’s clear that he has his critics. Nevertheless, it’s obvious he’s also one of the most popular Popes in recent memory—a man with true celebrity status—a man often described as a very humble person.


I in no way want to question this man’s motives and caring heart. However, I’m concerned with spiritual leaders who are extolled in ways that lead people to believe that they are in some way more holy because of their admiration and close proximity to a spiritual leader. This can easily communicate that salvation is by works, not by grace through faith.


I’m reminded of Paul and Barnabas when they were on their first missionary journey:


In Lystra a man . . . lame from birth . . . heard Paul speaking. After observing him closely and seeing that he had faith to be healed, Paul said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet!” And he jumped up and started to walk around.


When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying . . . . ”The gods have come down to us in the form of men!”


The apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their robes when they heard this and rushed into the crowd, shouting:  “Men!  Why are you doing these things?  We are men also, with the same nature as you . . .” (Acts 14:8-15).


An important principle emerges from the Scriptures—as I explain in the Life Essentials Study Bible, Principle #26, page 1505 in Acts:

Spiritual leaders must never allow people to honor them above God.


Please understand. We are to honor others within the body of Christ (Romans 12:10) and we are to certainly honor those who serve us in special ways (1 Timothy 5:17). But, we must never honor others in ways that conflict with honoring God. And as spiritual leaders, we must not allow this to happen. God alone is worthy! As spiritual leaders particularly, we must warn people against “worshipping men” rather than God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

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