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.