In my small rural Kansas church this morning, Pastor began to speak about revival. Mainly revival that needs to happen in each of us. Quite frankly the revival that needs to begin in me. As I jotted notes, jabbed my husband and spoke an occasional “Amen,” “yes” and “come on.” Fred Phelps name and face darted across my mind. Remember the sermon was about a revival in my own heart. So, what is the world was Fred doing there in my mind?
Pastor’s word began to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher, as I focused less on his words and more on my thoughts about Fred Phelps. Just by chance you don’t know of Fred. He is the “preacher” (I use the term lightly) from Kansas who, along with his band of merry men picket funerals, especially military and homosexuals. They spew out ugliness, to anything remotely involved with gay pride or high profile political gatherings. Their slogan screams to the world “God hates Fags.” Which couldn’t be farther from the truth?
Sitting in the pew contemplating why Phelps came to mind, the apostle Paul skirts in. Remember Paul or should I say Saul? By his own words in Philippians 3: 6, Saul was a “strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book.” Yet, traveling one day on the road to Damascus, Saul met Jesus and became an apostle named Paul. Aren’t there some references to Saul that could also define Phelps? Phelps is a fiery defender of his own Phelpsism religion, persecutes the church and is a Pharisee of the Law. In my book, Pharisee’s don’t exemplify Jesus; they manifest the law.
In researching more about Fred Phelps, I learned he is a disbarred lawyer and a past civil rights activist in Kansas. One can’t help but wonder what happened? Somewhere along life’s journey, his beliefs became tilted. Tilted to the point that instead of preaching the true gospel of peace and love; he thumbs his nose at it. Didn’t Saul do the same thing? Thumbed his nose at anyone or anything that didn’t fit into his interpretation of the Law. Especially Christians.
I have to ask myself again, why did Phelps and Saul/Paul come to mind? Especially when I am meditating about revival in my own heart and have already, been there done that! Oh, not to the extremes of Fred and Saul. However, I too have been to the place where law over rides love in regards to other people, and I have no intention of going back! The past two months, there have been conversations about homosexuality with other Christians in which, 1) I spoke what I believe is Truth in the situation and 2) God revealed how there are some in the “church” (universal) who still confuse law and love. Homosexuality and sexual sins in general, seem to bring out the worst in some believers. Perhaps not to the extreme of Phelps. Yet, not to the point of love like Jesus either. Jesus didn’t run from sexual sin, nor did he condone it. What drew people to Jesus was his love. Not picketing, spewing hate words or running them out of the church.
This second journey God has me on, has removed the scales from my own eyes. More and more I am seeing others through the lenses of my Savior. Less and less am I trying to play God. My role as a believer and follower of Christ is to inherently love others. Here is it again…that word Agape. Agape love for those God puts in my path. The definition for Agape is: love as revealed in Jesus, seen as spiritual and selfless and a model for humanity.
Back to Fred. While I can’t be the one who brings about a Saul/Paul experience to him, or a revival in his heart. That is God’s job! I can pray for him and I intended to. I am fervently going to pray God removes the scales from Fred and his band of merry men’s eyes. Can you imagine how powerful Fred Phelps and his followers could be if they were showing a true spiritual, selfless love for those military families and the homosexual community? Who knows perhaps next year at this time instead of writing about Saul/Paul on the road to Damascus, I will be recording a Fred/Ted conversion on 1 – 70.