Hate finally died yesterday.
It seemed like it would never come. It’s been going on for so long.
All the judgment.
All the wrath.
All the anger.
It finally came to an end yesterday…with his death.
So many people rejoiced. So many people cheered. So many people finally felt free….and rightfully so.
The words above have nothing to do with Fred Phelps and everything to do with Jesus.
You, me, and Fred Phelps make three – all of us live(d) in a stage of grace that has not always been offered to us. Because Jesus changed everything.
So the words above “STOP” aren’t written about the death of Fred Phelps. They aren’t written in celebration of the death of Phelps, the former and founding pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, infamous worldwide for their picketing of military funerals and bullhorn protests proclaiming a message of divine hatred conveniently directed at everyone except them.
No, these words are written for the day Jesus, King of Kings yet Servant of Servants, was killed, nailed to a tree. These words are written for the day he was brutally bludgeoned then helplessly hung until he gasped and gave his last breath…for you, and me, and Fred Phelps.
THAT’S the day hate died. THAT’S the day the curtain in the temple was torn, miraculously in fact, from top to bottom, signifying nothing less than the complete absorption of God’s wrath toward all sinners and free access to God through Jesus.
Now our task is simple…to trust that Jesus is really that good. To trust that grace really is that amazing.
- God doesn’t hate homosexuals.
- God doesn’t hate Muslims.
- God doesn’t hate lesbians.
- God doesn’t hate soldiers.
- God doesn’t hate atheists.
God HATES sin and JESUS paid for sin. It’s now simply our job to trust that Jesus’ work on our behalf is good enough so we don’t have to be and now we’re free to walk in obedience as our act of love and gratitude back to God.
“13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” – Ephesians 2:13-18
Don’t mistake yourself. The death of Fred Phelps is nothing to rejoice over. You underestimate the power of the cross to break down the “dividing wall of hostility” if you find yourself gleefully reading his obituary.
Personally, I have great pity for him and his family. It seems possible that he might have lived his entire life without really ever tasting the goodness of God’s grace. As our pastor frequently says, “Grace received always becomes grace given.” I’m not sure to what level Phelps ever received grace because it didn’t seem like he ever gave much of it to others. However, it’s not our job to judge his life.
I sincerely hope to see Phelps in heaven one day. And if that last sentence makes your cringe, maybe heaven will be disappointing for you. I suspect God’s grace reaches much further and wider than you or I would be comfortable with, if we’re honest.
Phelps’ death made me reflect on the hatred that lies within my own heart, and to realize that there’s simply no reason for any level of it reside within me. I hope it does the same for you.
Can you trust that?