Forgiving Fred.

Fred Phelps has died. He was the leader of the Westboro group. They weren’t Baptist, and they weren’t a church. Not really. They were an organized group of haters. They showed up at military and high publicity funerals to protest gay people, even if the person who died was straight.

Among Jesus’ last words were “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Let us forgive Fred and his followers.

We cannot become like Fred Phelps or his followers. If we do, they have won. To hope that he “rots in hell” or to desire to “piss on his grave” is to let his brand of hate to take over.

This is about really knowing the message of Jesus. This is about knowing that the message is about forgiveness and love. It is about showing that same forgiveness and love that is shown to us through Jesus to others

Why would people want to become Christian if the face of Christianity is Fred Phelps and his group? Why would they want to become part of the Body of Christ when it looks like it is only used to attack others?

This Body was created to heal, not hurt. Our hands are meant for feeding and clothing others, not for holding picket signs. Our fingers were not made for pointing.

Imagine if this group had used its resources to mobilize their members to go to flood areas and other natural disasters to help out. They could have used their powers for good. Imagine if they’d used their money and time to teach people how to read or how to eat healthy food

We, as members of the Body of Christ, are held to a higher standard. We must forgive him. To forgive is not to condone.

We must remember that he was not acting alone. When we talk about how bad he was, we have to remember that it wasn’t just one man who showed up with a picket sign.

We talk about how bad Hitler was, but we forget that it was thousands of his followers that did the dirty work. We talk about Osama bin Laden, but we forget he wasn’t the one who was bombing and killing. Both of them were just giving the orders and others were just carrying them out.

If we are filled with hate towards Fred Phelps, we are one of his followers as surely as they were.

The bad thing is that there are plenty of people who call themselves Christian who agree with the Westboro group’s motives, if not their methods. They think that the purpose of Christians is to tell off other people and to have them live by a certain narrow set of rules.

They don’t remember that Jesus, in John 8:7, when he came across a group that was going to stone an adulterers, said “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus doesn’t condemn her, or anybody else. Neither should we. They don’t remember that Jesus paid for all sins, for everybody, across time, by his death on the cross. We aren’t sinners, none of us. That debt is paid.

We can’t condemn even those who condemn others. Even Fred Phelps and his followers. We have to love them, because they need it the most. We have to show them love. We have to show them how to love by being loving to them.

Forgive them. Be the face of love to them. We must teach them who Jesus really is by being Jesus to them. Jesus is love. Thus, we should be too.

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Who is the dummy? – on boundaries.

Who is the dummy? If Jane asks Bob for ten dollars every day, and Bob gives it to her happily, then there is no problem. If he resents her asking but says nothing, then she isn’t in the wrong, he is. He’s the dummy.

Whatever someone wants from you – time, energy, money, whatever, if it is a burden for you, you must say no.

Consider if someone shows up to your house unexpected. They ask if they can come in. You are tired after a long day and you are about to go to bed. You don’t want to stay up entertaining them. You have to work early tomorrow morning. Do you let them in?

What if they want to stay in your house overnight? Or for a week? Or for a month? Or a year? Or forever?

Where do you draw the line?

At what point do your own needs come into play? If you do not stand up for yourself, who will?

I know several people who if they don’t respond to a text message immediately, their friend or relative will start to freak out. They will send another text. They will call. They will contact another person to check up on them. This is their normal behavior.

But the friend or relative isn’t the dummy. They haven’t been told “no” in a way that they understand. Perhaps they haven’t been told “no” at all.
It is up to each of us to establish boundaries of what is OK and what isn’t.

Now, here’s the funny bit – the other person can establish their own boundaries too. There is a lady at work who wears a really strong scented lotion. It triggers my asthma. The smell is so strong that if she has walked through that area, the smell lingers like a cloud.

Years ago I just suffered quietly, harboring my resentment that this horrible smell was affecting me. She didn’t know that it bothered me. So in that case, I was the dummy for not saying anything.

Then I bolstered up my courage and said something to her. She brushed off my concern. Sadly, this is common. People don’t understand asthma. They don’t get that I have to stop breathing for a little bit when I encounter a trigger smell, in order to not overexpose myself to it. If I get too much of it and the asthma attack starts it feels like someone has grabbed my left lung in a vise every time I breathe in. I cannot get in a full breath. It is terrifying.

And it is preventable. If I had my way, a whole lot of perfumes would just stop being produced, because it isn’t just me that is affected. But that is another post for another day.

Because this lady doesn’t work in my area, I’ve not done anything more about it. She doesn’t spend a lot of time around me. If she did, I’d have to talk to a manager about it. I talked to her, and she ignored me. This was months ago.

Then, yesterday, she saw me in the break room and said that she’d just be in there quickly, because she “had heard” that I was allergic to her lotion. She “didn’t want me to throw up.” Throwing up isn’t part of an asthma attack. And she “had heard” it from me – it wasn’t gossip. She was a bit confused all around, but she had decided to just not be around me. I mentioned that she could choose to not wear it, and she said she didn’t like the unscented lotion.

It was a weird compromise, but it was a compromise. If I’d not said anything to her, then I’d be in the wrong – not her. In the best of worlds, she would have understood the depth of harm her overly-scented lotion does to me. I don’t think that is possible considering her statements from yesterday. It is obvious that she misunderstood what I’d said to her before.

It is weird that she somehow “got it” months later, but that isn’t the point. The point is that I had to say something, and she had a choice.