“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Pastor Fred Phelps Sr. is dying. Over the course of many years now the Westboro Baptist church has been at the forefront of many controversial public protests. You might remember them for their many anti-gay signs and their now infamous quotes like “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “Thank God for 9/11”! (Link: http://nypost.com/2014/03/16/westboro-baptist-pastor-in-hospice-care/)
I’m not here to slam Pastor Fred. He’s already taken a lot of heat and his “church” has even been labeled a hate group. I will say however that I seriously doubt Jesus would have ever stepped foot in the doors of a church like this…okay maybe He would have to confront them perhaps…I digress. But I’m not here to judge them on their merits or lack there of. I’m not even here to condemn this pastor.
I wonder what it would be like to go to the hospice facility that Pastor Fred is now located at and hold signs not of hate and condemnation, but signs of love and concern? I’m not saying we should do this but it certainly would be interesting to see the response. Another thought that came to mind when hearing about his impending death – every person should face death with human decency and dignity including Pastor Phelps.
At the end of the day if we stoop to the level of outrage and hate like these protests conducted by the Westboro baptist church, we in essence are no better. I’m not implying that we’re better than they are, don’t get me wrong, I’m just suggesting that instead of celebrating his soon to be passing, let’s pray for Pastor Fred and others like him in our world.
This world is already too full of hate, too full of extremist fundamentals (and to be fair on the other side of things extreme leftist liberals as well)…this world is already too full of condemnation as well. We don’t need to fall into these ranks as well. Jesus once said; “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.“
2 reasons to love our enemies and pray for them:
1) It frees us of hate
This section is hard for me. I personally want to retaliate when someone wrongs me, I want to inflict the same kind of pain on any person who dares do me wrong…but I shouldn’t because it only empties bitterness into my heart. They say you become what you think about most often, and if I allow this thought of hurting my enemies and vengeance inside me then I am no better a person than they are. When we open our hearts, as Jesus suggested, to love we catch a glimpse of the divine original purpose for all of humanity. If I love that person, if I love Pastor Fred despite his actions, I free myself of a kind of hate that destroys hearts and lives.
Does this mean that justice isn’t pursued or sought out? Of course not, but remember that God is the judge and ultimately every person will have to stand before Him, so be careful that we have sorted out our own hearts and motives for wanting such justice on others.
When we are freed from hatred, we can learn to love more…and this leads to being like Christ in our pursuit and His workings of Holiness.
2) It opens up opportunities for our enemy to find salvation
What takes place when we extend grace to those who have spurned us and done us wrong? One it really messes with their heads (not our purpose of course) but two, it hopefully causes them to want to change! Obviously not every one of our enemies will change because we loved them, I don’t want to sell you a pipe dream here, but God can and still does perform miracles does He not? Enemies still need salvation too, and perhaps someone to show them what real authentic love looks like.
I want to pray for Pastor Fred Phelps Sr, and for His church. I know that hate is our natural response to others who show hate, but if we’re to be like Christ, no matter how hard it may be for us, we ought to show love as our response. Shining dark into dark will only make things darker, but if we shine the light of Christ into that absence of light, lives can be redeemed and drastically changed!
Pastor Fred, I pray for the remaining hours of life that you have here on earth. You have a Father in heaven who loves you and wants you to love Him back in return. May His grace, peace and especially love find its place in your heart. To the members of the Westboro Baptist church I say, love opens doors that hate never will. Repent, seek grace and forgiveness and know that other Christ-followers are praying for you with the love of Christ. We also pray that you will once again see what God is truly saying to you and that you seek to bring peace and grace into the doors of your church.
-Sincerely in Christ.
“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”
― G.K. Chesterton