The Westboro Baptist Church is a church well known to the American public, arguably for all the wrong reasons. This Topeka, Kansas church has approximately 40 people, most of which are related to the church’s pastor, Fred Phelps.
They are best known for their views on homosexuality that leads them to protest at military funerals of gay servicemen. Their stance is that these people died because God hates homosexuals. In a 2011 ruling, the Supreme Court said that the demonstrations at military funerals were protected under the picketers’ second amendment rights. Margie Phelps, lead council for the church said in response to the ruling: “We are trying to warn you to flee the wrath of God, flee the wrath of destruction. What would be more kind than that?”
Then, in one of their most shocking moves, one of Westboro Baptist Church’s leaders tweeted this:
The world was outraged and it was this tweet that has caused many Christians and non-Christians to unite against the group. But what is more important to followers of Jesus is this: what would Jesus say to Westboro Baptist Church? Of course, nobody knows but a look at the Bible might give us an idea.
Hatred is Not of Me
“Hatred stirs up conflict,
but love covers over all wrongs.”- Proverbs 10:12
Jesus was never been about hate. In John 13:34 Jesus commands us to love one another. Jesus understood that having any kind of impact on somebody’s life first starts with forming a positive relationship.
“ Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”- Ephesians 4:15
In Ephesians, we’re commanded to tell the truth in love. Christians believe that the Bible speaks of homosexuality as a sin but it says the same thing about complaining, overeating, and lying–all things that well meaning Christians struggle with every day. When we speak to others in a judgmental tone, we forget that we’re sinners too.
The way that God changes us is often through others who challenge us to grow but very few have changed as a result of hate speech and signs. Jesus knows how to change people and He does it through love. He works on our hearts by showing us a more peaceful way.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”- John 13:34
Christians Should Be Peacemakers
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”- Romans 12:18
The Westboro Baptist Church reportedly spends at least $250,000 each year protesting at funerals and other events around the country. Lawmakers have tried to pass laws making their presence unlawful, and there are multiple petitions urging authorities to classify them as a hate group.
Jesus wants His people at a funeral but not as picketers. At a time when people are looking for answers, Jesus wants to be that answer. He wants His people to peacefully minister to people in a way that brings comfort. He doesn’t want to be represented on a list of hate groups.
But think about this: what are you doing to bring peace to the people in your life? Are you the light that Jesus wants you to be? Are you the one people come to when they need prayer? Are you the voice of hope? If not, pray about how you can be more like Jesus in that way.
Your Intentions are Good but You’ve Lost Your Way
There’s little doubt that the members of Westboro Baptist Church believe they are doing God’s work and if we strip away their methods, the time and resources they’re investing into God is commendable. Jesus would likely start by commending them for their dedication to spreading His name but they’re going about it in the wrong way.
What if those resources were used to build up instead of tear down? What if they traveled the country telling people about God’s good news? What if the message on their signs was simply that Jesus loves everybody regardless of where they’re at in life?
In order for each of us to not be one of them, it’s important that we find a way to love these people despite what we think of their actions. Do you believe that Jesus loves them? He does, just as He loves the murderer, the thief, and His strongest critics. Jesus saw potential in a guy named Saul and transformed him into Paul. He can do the same thing for members of the Westboro Baptist Church.
Don’t be like everybody else. Don’t speak hatred against them. Instead, love them. When people ask you what you think of their actions, let them know that above all else, Jesus loves them regardless of what He thinks of their actions–and you do too. Above all, pray constantly that God will do a work in them. Pray that God will take a people willing to sacrifice for God and turn them into people who bring life to those in their community. If we hate them, we’re no better than they are.
We aren’t called to act in the politically correct way. We aren’t called to blend in with the world. We are, however, called to be the living example of who God is.