Judgment and Forgiveness

You’re going to come across people in your life who will say all the right words at all the right times.

But in the end, it’s always their actions you should judge them by. It’s actions, not words, that matter.

~ Nicholas Sparks, The Rescue

 This last week a man by the name of Fred Phelps died. I’m hoping that there were people who didn’t know the man, but I’m also certain his name was known too widely because of his actions, or the actions of the church he founded, Westboro Baptist Church. Individuals and families of the LGBTQ community and families of service members who lost their lives have a real understanding of Fred Phelps and his actions. 

For those few who are not familiar with his actions, Leonard Pitts, Jr. summarized it well. “The senior Phelps, of course, was the founder of Westboro Baptist "Church" in Topeka, Kansas. He was the "God hates" guy. As in "God Hates China" (its divorce rates are too high), "God Hates Islam" (for being a false religion), "God Hates Qatar" (for being rich) "God Hates The Media" (for saying mean things about Westboro), "God Hates Tuvalu" (for having too many holidays), "God Hates America" (for tolerating homosexuality) and, of course, most notoriously, "God Hates Fags" -- Phelps' odious word for gay men and lesbians. He was also the man who applauded the deaths of American soldiers and picketed their funerals, under the dubious formulation that their dying represented God's judgment upon this country.”

It would be easy to take off on a riff about behavior. It would be easy to point at his actions and restate all of the ways I feel his actions don’t reflect our calling as Christians. It is even a thought that I talk about how we should take the moral high ground and forgive him. I could say the past is the past and let’s be happy that his actions have ended here and now. But I must be honest and say I find all of these things difficult to do myself or convince others to do. I can say that his death has challenged me to think about and process my reaction. I can only be certain of one thing. I know that I cannot celebrate any death, even the death of an individual who has done so many hate-filled actions in his lifetime.

I find myself challenged to answer two questions. “How do I love this neighbor?” “How do I forgive this person?” Everyone will have to answer these questions for themselves, but I want to share my answer to the first question, how do I love this neighbor. I might be rationalizing this response, but I think the way I can love Fred Phelps, is to help heal the people he has hurt. It is more important than ever for me to make sure people know that God’s love and forgiveness is accessible to ALL. Thankfully, I am not the one who stands at the gate and monitors judgment and forgiveness for God. I only need to be the conduit for people, including myself, to God. I need to be the reminder that God is available and willing to be present, regardless of the baggage we carry. 

As for the forgiveness piece, well I’m still working on that part. It’s hard to forgive when I have seen so many people hurt by his actions. I’m open to reading the map for that journey to forgive, but the map is still a bit fuzzy for me. Maybe just being willing to open the map and hold it in my hands will allow me more time to be able to clear my eyes and focus on the journey.


The decision to forgive touches you to your very core, to who you are as a human being.

~ Robert Enright


~ Eldonna Hazen


Posted on March 25, 2014 at 10:57 am in Featured Content.

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