I heard tonight that Fred Phelps is dead. For those whom it hasn’t registered, Fred Phelps is the founder and pastor of Westboro Baptist Church. An organisation that I am rather loath to call church. It’s known for its rather legalistic and hatred ways towards others in its distortion of the Gospel message. However, despite my feelings to the contrary, I felt the Lord reminding me tonight that there were two examples of praying men given in a story by Jesus.
One man was a tax collector, the scourge of society. The other was a religious leader. The first man hung his head in shame, and said, “Lord, forgive me a sinner.” The second man, looked up to heaven and said, “I am glad I am not like this scum bag beside me, I am a man of good works, I am known to be a man of the law, yada yada yada…” Jesus said the first guy was justified by God, where the second guy was self justified.
Oh the irony. It would be so easy to compare these two prayers with Fred Phelps. It doesn’t take much imagination to quickly point out which man in the scriptures he is represented by…but wait, is it so easy? In our finger pointing, which man are we now represented by? Lets not add evil to evil. Lets not be self righteous in our responses to his death. Rather, lets be saddened by his death, in the same we death should sadden us all. God didn’t originally create us to die – rather death became the result of sin. But, the gift of God is eternal life and the forgiveness of sin. May our response to his death be one of Christian love and charity.
It’s my prayer that his family and friends will know the comfort of the Lord in this time of grief. That the Lord will heal their wounds. Fill them with the knowledge of his love. And outwork through them with the power of love, transforming their hearts, bodies and minds.