Published on March 21st, 2014 | by Jeff Price0
Westboro Baptist; Giving Love A Bad Name
The members of the Westboro Baptist Church located in Topeka, Kansas have endured years of hardship, ridicule and violence against their beliefs and, more specifically, the manner in which they present those beliefs. This is due to the fact that this infamous body of believers have become notorious for their claims that God’s wrath has been visited upon certain individuals, groups of individuals, this country and the world as a whole due to people’s refusal to follow God’s law. They celebrate the deaths of homosexuals, movie stars, military members and the like, claiming that their deaths are God’s justified retribution against the deceased’s sinful natures. They have even gone as far as to assemble at funerals for the purpose of hurling insults, accusations and crude opinions toward the deceased and mourners in an effort to “enlighten” them to the error of their sinful ways. They have also been known to gather at homosexually-oriented events to offer the same type of illumination in like manner to any participant within screaming distance of the occasion. Though they claim that their actions are done in love, the Westboro church members’ incendiary approach to evangelism is so extreme and unorthodox that it can easily be taken for hateful – and for good reason.
While the Westboro church members are correct in their belief that God is angered by the depraved mindset of humanity, we must bear in mind that every one of us has lost favor with God, Romans 3:23, and would receive a well-deserved eradication if it weren’t for God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice, Romans 6:23. But, contrary to their message, God’s judgment upon humanity is not implemented in step with our disobedience to His law. If it were, this world would be in much worse shape than it is currently. Rather, His judgment is reserved for the end of days, 2 Corinthians 5:10. This doesn’t mean, however, that God won’t, on rare occasion, use natural or man-made disasters to impose His will on humanity. But, His intent in such cases is no so much punishment as it is a means with which to limit man’s wickedness or to encourage man to change his ways, Genesis 6:5-8, Amos 4:6-11. And while this church group is also correct in their assertion that God hates sinners, Psalm 11:5, thankfully for all of us, God is also full of infinite grace and steadfast love and has made a way for those things that He hates about us to be eradicated, Romans 5:8, John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 1:6. It is this glorious news of redemption stemming from God’s love and sacrifice that the Westboro church members should be screaming about as opposed to ridiculing others for their sins.
We are to be imitators of God’s Son, Ephesians 5:1-2. And in imitating Christ, we imitate God, being that Christ is God, John 1:1. With that in mind, we see a recurring theme when it comes to the God of the Bible; love. The love of God is mentioned hundreds of times throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Moreover, the definitive, overall theme of the Bible is, it’s self, love. Unfortunately, love – the very thing that the members of the Westboro Baptist Church herald as the motivating factor for their conduct – is precisely the thing that these individuals seem to lack
Ecclesiastes 3:8 informs us that there is both a time to love and a time to hate. Psalm 97:10 tells us that we are to hate evil. But, we would be hard-pressed to find any passage in the word of God that tells us to exhibit hatred in any form toward our fellow man. The members of Westboro Church, however, seem to have missed the mark when it comes to this concept. In fact, it would appear that these individuals fit the pattern of those mentioned in Matthew 24:10-13 whose ‘ love has grown cold and who have come to hate others. Further fitting the pattern of this passage in Matthew, they had followed a false teacher, Pastor Fred Phelps, who for over fifty years had fostered and encouraged an attitude of animosity toward those that he deemed Godless. It should be mentioned, however, that the eldership of Westboro had excommunicated Mr. Phelps from their church shortly before he passed on. Perhaps this action by Westboro’s leadership is an indication that they have recognized the errors in their doctrine of hate.
Westboro may have missed the mark, but we can learn from their mistakes. We can begin by keeping Matthew 5:43-44 in mind each time we attempt to spread the Gospel to a Godless world. At times, we may see the unsaved as enemies of the Lord and at times, we may even be correct. But, just as Matthew 5:43-44 tells us, we need to remember to love even our enemies and pray for them always because we can not claim to walk in the light if we hate one another, 1 John 2:9, 1 John 4:20. In our attempts to evangelize a dark world, we may fall victim to the same mindset Westboro has if we are not mindful of the fact that hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses, Proverbs 10:12. And if love is the theme of the Bible, if love is God’s goal for humanity Mark 12:30-31 and considered to be “the most excellent way”, 1 Corinthians 12:31 and if the command to love one another comes second only to loving God, Matthew 22:37-40, it would stand to reason that love should be the primary inspiration behind our evangelism of the lost. Now, we may think we understand this, but we need to examine ourselves closely to be certain that we do because members of Westboro Baptist claim to fully understand this, also. But, if they truly had, it would seem that their “evangelism” would have been carried out with brotherly affection and honor toward the souls they were concerned for, Romans 12:10, and not with provocation, Galatians 5:26.
So, let us learn from the ill repute of the Westboro Baptist church. No matter how much we claim to love our neighbors and our enemies, if our love is not presented with humility, gentleness and toleration as is mentioned in Ephesians 4:2, it is either not truly love or it will be of no effect if it is. The very fact that we have to question whether love is truly the motivating factor behind Westboro’s radical and heretical mode of spreading God’s word is a tell-tale sign that their chosen approach is terribly wrong.
True Christians should be known for compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience and forgiveness, Colossians 3:12-14, as well as goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, Galatians 5:22-23. We need to love one another earnestly and with a pure heart, 1 Peter 1:22. Our love should be marked by the fact that we have never been known to envy or to boast and by the fact that we are not seen as arrogant or rude, irritable or resentful, 1 Corinthians 13:4-6. We should be set apart by the very quality of our love for one another, John 13:35, Luke 6:27. Not simply because we are commanded to, 1 John 4:21, but because if we are truly converted Christians whose’ hearts have been turned from stone to flesh, Ezekiel 36:26, then love will be the indication of our transformation, 1 John 4:7-8, John 13:35.
Perhaps the members of the Westboro Baptist Church have endured years of hardship, ridicule and violence, not because people have no love for them, but because they have no love for the people. Perhaps the wrath of God that they so persistently assert is being visited upon an ungodly nation is actually being visited upon their unloving church. But we can pray that the excommunication of pastor Phelps is an indication that the members of Westboro Baptist Church are considering a new direction. Let’s pray for these brothers and sisters, that they will now attempt to distance themselves from the heretical teachings that have poisoned their church doctrine for the better part of fifty years and that they will dedicate themselves to guarding their hearts from hate and to reasoning better with their neighbors, Leviticus 19:17.
But, this isn’t just an opportunity for Westboro, it is also an opportunity for the rest of us Christians to examine our own Christianity more closely, lest we too fall prey to sewing discord among others, Proverbs 6:16. As we strive to spread the Gospel to the lost of this world, let us do so through the vessel of – and with all the glorious qualities of – love!