I've been thinking about the death of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, and I bet you have too. This man is the face of Westboro church, one of the most hated organizations in America. And rightfully so. They use Christianity as a forum for hate. I adamantly disagree with their approach.
Phelps, the founder and former leader of Westboro church, died Wednesday. And, I bet you have wondered about what kind of afterlife this man is having right now. I have wondered too. What happened when he came face to face with his creator?
First, I believe that Jesus is all about love. He loves everyone. The tax collectors, the prostitutes, the lame, the lepers. All of them. He even loves me.
And as much as Westboro Baptist church members spread hate and poison and are despicable in their actions, Jesus loves each of them too. It's hard to reconcile that for non-believers and believers alike. But if we look at scripture, we have to believe this is true.
>I also believe that Jesus is grieved by the group’s actions and hates what they do in His name. Because I stand by the fact that Jesus is all about love, I think he loves them in spite of themselves. Just the way parents love their children even when they do bad things. The bad things don't define our children in our eyes; we see their hearts.
Somewhere along the way, Phelps and his congregation got way off track. Some argue that Westboro is a hate group or even a cult. Maybe they are. I don't claim to know.
What I do know is that I bet they believe what they are doing is right by God. I don't, nor will I ever, believe that is true.
But if I were to celebrate Phelps death and wish him ill and fantasize about him going to hell for his actions, then I would be just as bad as he was. I would be judgmental. I would be a hypocrite. I would be advocating hate.
Just like Phelps.
The truth is I have no idea what happened when he came face to face with God. Was Phelps really a believer to begin with who got very lost along the way? Or was he a tool of Satan who never really believed in Jesus Christ and who slandered his name? Or was he a tool of Satan who changed his mind and heart in his final days as he was excommunicated from the church?
God's response to Phelps was based on his belief, not his actions. Just as the thief on the cross became a believer moments before his death and died next to Jesus believing in him, securing his eternal destiny in Heaven, maybe Phelps did too.
So as I have thought about this man dying and the number of people rejoicing in his death, it has made me sad. It has made me sad because he stood for reprehensible things in the name of Jesus, who was all about love.
His death doesn't stop Westboro from doing what they do. They will continue to spread hate and Jesus will continue to be saddened. Do they really believe in him and follow him? It's not for me to know.
I think the best I can do is pray for the people associated with that group and hope their hearts will soften and they will see what awful things they are doing. Maybe then they would turn from hate to love.
So, I will not rejoice in the death of this man. I will also not mourn his loss. I will leave all of that up to God, the true judge.
I will say this: I am sure glad God doesn't judge me and punish me for my actions and instead judges me by my heart and forgives me for my transgressions. That's surely something I don't deserve, but he has done it for me anyway. And, I would expect him to do nothing less for anyone else.
Michelle Sutherlin is a NewsOK contributor and a middle school counselor in Norman, OK, who works with students ages 11-15 daily. She is also a mom to two boys, Ryan (12) and Will (9). She and her husband have been married for 16 years.
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