Early last year, 10:31 ran an article that was part of one of our Friday Devotional Series Full of Hope. The article was very much in opposition to Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS and such got the attention of all kinds of people. Some question why I did not censor the article claimed. The reason being I do not censor writers for any reason other than direct abuse of scripture or blatant heresy. However, a year removed from that article my heart has changed a little towards Westboro Baptist Church. Not because I agree with their hatred of…everyone…but because as I grow to a deeper understanding of God’s love for myself I have learned a few things that should and are radically changing my heart.
So here is why, as the director of 10:31 Life Ministries, as well as a believer, I will no longer attack Westboro Baptist Church.
I am No Better:
In my last year writing for Altrocklive.com I received an album from the band Decyfer Down. On the album was their song “Westboro.” A song that exhorts: “Just go back to Westboro baby, where they love to hate, just go back to Westboro baby, the devil said you could stay, and hell is just the same.” The first time I heard the song I was pumped up…”yea, stick it to them” I thought, but shortly after that I was flooded with conviction. As if the spirit was asking me, “Do you really feel that way?”
The song reminds me though, that for all my good qualities I have the potential to be just as cruel, and indeed at times have been just as cruel to people I did not like. It takes daily surrender to the work of sanctification to grow deeper in love with God. That also requires me to lay down the old self and give up my attitudes that could be harmful to other believers. To sacrifice the many negative opinions I may carry for the purpose of building up the body.
It is not Worth the Division:
Last year I heard a student from Topeka, Kansas get after another student for making a negative comment about Westboro. “They are people too,” she said “and they need to be shown the love of God.” She was quite adamant and though I did not think much of it at the time the conversation has been on my mind a lot recently.
See, when we attack someone, instead of making a thought-out, biblical argument against what they are teaching, we are causing division. In that instant, that brother and sister in Christ were divided because of a comment made in hatred towards a group of people that have a genuine need to be shown and know the Love of God.
In 1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV) Paul writes: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” If we are arguing over Westboro and showing them as much hate as they show the ones they do not like then we may be united against them, but are we a united Body? I wish there was a way to reach out to and minister to the people at Westboro, to show them the love of Christ, to be bring them back into the fold. In a church that is already splintered we need to be seeking to be united, not causing more division. The field of reconciliation is ripe for the harvest, we just need to put our hands to the plow and love one another.
The Aim of Our Charge:
Finally, a continued, in-depth study of the book 1 Timothy has me convicted about the way I approach false teaching and false teachers. I was ready to hate all the false teachers, throw them in hell and be done with them. Being a victim of a spiritual autocrat some might say my feelings are justified…and to some extent they are.
However 1 Timothy 1:5 says this: “The aim of our charge is love, that issues from a pure heart, good conscious and sincere faith.” This is the central verse of the text, all the instruction Paul gives Timothy from there on out will go back to that verse. If we want to correct false teachings, if we want to reach out to those broken like I was we must have love. That love, comes from a pure heart, not one bogged down by hatred or sin, a good conscious, not one seared by love of money or malice or sin and a sincere faith, not a flaky faith. These three produce love and it is love, not hatred that Westboro needs.
My November article for Take the Lead is going to focus on the idea that we can rehabilitate false teachers. From a personal standpoint, without going into textual details (I will save that for November). I believe that false teachers can be rehabilitated because, out of love, an older man of God spoke into my life, as a legalist, and loved me enough to help rebuild the man that the autocrats had torn down. Not just this one man (who continues to be a mentor and counsel to me today) but others, my pastors, my brothers in Christ. They loved me enough to see a man filled with hate for those who did not “Follow the Command” like good soldiers and spoke life into him so that God could make him the man he is becoming.
So, I’m done attacking Westboro, I am done with division. Yes, I have a theological problem with what they are doing. But will getting angry ever change that? No! Only by humbly loving them and believe that God could can change the hearts and minds of all who come to believe in His love and mercy. I spent over 4 weeks studying Westboro and their tactics and I can tell you that they do not need returned hate speech, they need the love of Christ.