Fred Phelps, pictured above is the founder of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka Kansas and he died yesterday at the age of 84. Some of you who live in the mid-west recognize the churches name as the one who frequently pickets at soldier's funerals, tells the gay community they are going to hell and informs all of us that God hates and therefore we should hate. This small congregation of people has stirred quite the pool of controversy and hate in their 54 year existence. Many members of this church are actually related to Phelps either by blood or marriage.
There has already been lots of responses to his death. Ideas that some Christians are going to protest his funeral and homosexuals who will be showing up in drag to taunt the family. All very natural and reciprocal responses to a man who in my opinion was clearly very hateful and hurtful. Yet, this is what God says about it:
"Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." I Peter 3:9.
Sounds CRAZY! I mean it doesn't even leave me room to do nothing! Quite the marching orders if you call yourself a Christ follower, huh? The shocking part to me is that God has heard every word this man has spoken. He has attended every protest this man has organized and yet God's instructions to me don't change because of it. Unbelievable! We are just supposed to obey His word. We aren't supposed to wait until we feel like it or agree with it. We aren't supposed to determine who is deserving of love, we are just supposed to give it. Nowhere in scripture (and believe me I've looked) does it care about how I feel when it gives instruction for how I am to behave. I don't have to like it. I don't have to think it makes an iota of sense. And I don't have to feel like doing it!! But, if I claim to be His then I must take His instruction seriously. Doing so is what sets us apart. To extend love, grace, mercy, peace and blessing where there is evil is how the world knows to whom we belong.
So, I say we show his family and congregation to whom we belong. If you want to be radically God's then let's send cards with our heartfelt condolences for their loss. Let's pray for them at this time of grief. Let's hope for them that this change somehow produces reconciliation and healing in their homes and lives. Let's pray that God and his immense love is revealed through us, His people. Let's send kindness, grace, love and blessing in any form that we can. Not because we want to but because we are called to!
Truthfully, if you choose to extend love in this situation you will NOT be honoring this deceased man, his beliefs, his legacy, or his life work. You will be saying that his actions of hate don't change who you are and what you believe. You will be making a choice to honor your God and the Lordship He has in your life. You will likely be going out of your comfort zone and feelings to say, "I trust you, Lord and your ways are higher than mine." And you might even be part of the reason that hearts are changed at Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. God's love is the only thing that penetrates that kind of hate. Let's send them some!
Westboro Baptist Church
3701 SW 12th Street
Topeka, Kansas 66604
(The irony of the zip code is not lost on me!)