When someone who is our enemy here on earth dies, how do you react? Do you dance on the grave? Do you change the channel in indifference? Do you mourn the loss of a soul? This is where I am at with the news of the death of Rev. Fred Phelps, Sr..
The announcement today of the passing of Fred Phelps Sr., founding pastor of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, really didn’t take me by surprise. News of his poor health had been circulating around the Web for weeks now.
Controversial is understatement. For over two decades, he led his congregation in picketing countless funerals and events, some within the church estimate the number in excess of fifty-three thousand events. His anti-gay oratories are known worldwide. He made a name for himself by twisting the words of the Bible into such hate filled rhetoric that the idea of God’s love never crossed his lips.
The feelings of the LGBT community and many more were summed up in a statement from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force,
“Fred Phelps will not be missed by the LGBT community, people with HIV/AIDS and the millions of decent people across the world who found what he and his followers do deeply hurtful and offensive,”
The hatred that Rev. Phelps displayed with callous disregard for the feelings of anyone outside his little, bitter world is no mystery. But how are we, as true followers of Christ, suppose to react?
Are we to respond with like vile? Are we to turn the other cheek? Are we to face hatred with love?
This is the question that many are contemplating today. This is the question that every Christian should have a ready answer to.
“God is love.Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment. In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”1 John 4:16-18
I can honestly say I believe the Rev. Phelps had a lot to fear. He feared what he didn’t understand. He feared those that were different than his narrow definition of humanity. It was that fear that drove him to step out of the light of God and into the darkness of hate.
I feel sorry for this man. I feel sorry that somewhere along the way, his views, his beliefs, his idea of who God is became so warped that he could do nothing but preach contrary to the Word that God gave us.
God clearly has called each and EVERY one of us to love each other – just as he loves us. God does not love us for who we are. He doesn’t love us because he agrees with our politics. He doesn’t love us because of our sexual orientation. He doesn’t love because of our gender identity. He loves us because we are his children. Period. End of story.
I don’t mourn this man’s passing. I won’t dance on his grave either. I pity him. I pity the men and women he has led astray with his teachings.
Rev. Phelps falls into the same category where we place people like David Koresh and Jim Jones. People like this have used scripture for their own agenda. They surround themselves with people that will follow them into darkness.
Whether or not, at some time in the distant past, Rev. Phelps had accepted Christ as his personal savior, God will be the final and only rightful judge of his life. He will answer for his actions and his words while he drew breath on this planet.
So how do I react to the death of someone that stood against me and my community? My job is not judge a man for his words or his actions. My job is not to turn my back on my enemies. My job is to show the love that God has blessed me with.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” Matthew 5:44-45