As news broke that Fred Phelps, pastor and founder of the familial cult known as Westboro Baptist Church, was close to death the giddy tweets began to pour out.
People seemed delighted that a man who was known for rejoicing over death would soon face that which he seemed to relish for others.
With his history as an NAACP award winning civil rights lawyer, Phelps is more complicated than a caricature. But in recent years, all he has shown to anyone outside of his family cult has been hatred.
He knows hate and wrath. He has no concept of love and grace. The god he has fashioned in his own image is incapable of forgiveness.
So that’s what he’s been getting in return. “God hates Phelps! Picket his funeral. Show Phelps exactly what he’s shown everyone else.”
That’s just it though. All he knows hate. The false god he worships knows hate. Why would hate be the way to respond to him?
Before he dies, I pray Fred Phelps discovers the grace he refused to display from the true God he never knew existed.
There is no denying that Phelps has harmed the reputation of the Church in the eyes of the world. But so have you and I.
Obviously not to the extent that Phelps has, but I’ve messed up. I haven’t shown grace where it was needed. You have not been the ambassador for Christ that you should have been at every moment of your life.
I don’t want to minimize how graceless Phelps has been, just the opposite. But I think the best way to show how mistaken Phelps has been is to extend him what he refused to extend others.
A hate-filled cult will not change because they are shown hate. They can only be freed from their legalistic, graceless prison by experiencing that which frees all sinners – the grace that flows from the cross of Christ.
Pray for Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist cult – not because they deserve, but because they don’t. That’s grace.