Monday, May 5, 2014

Letter to Westboro Baptist Church Regarding Their Graduation Protest of Junction City High School

Dear Westboro Baptist Church

It has come to my attention that you plan on picketing the graduation of Junction City High School on May 18. The high school is next door to our church, First Southern Baptist. Throughout the school year, we have been feeding, evangelizing, and witnessing to those students every single Tuesday. By feeding, I mean not only spiritually. We provide them lunch as well as giving them the gospel.

Most of the students that we meet do not follow Christ. But by the great mercy and patience our loving God has displayed through a murderer like the Apostle Paul (1 Timothy 1:16), and because we know that He does not want anyone to perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), we know that the message we share is working in the lives of these students. It does not return void (Isaiah 55:11).

We reach out with a message of love. It is a love that you do not have, and this is what troubles me as a pastor. The message of Christ, the love displayed by His death on the cross to save us from the wages of our sins, all who believe in His name, is nowhere in your rhetoric. I have reason to doubt that you yourselves are saved, which makes you blind guides and hypocrites.

On your website, you use Proverbs 30:11-14 to justify your protest of JCHS, claiming this describes our current generation of teenagers. On the contrary, it describes you. Allow me to exegete this passage so you might understand:
"There is a generation that curseth their father and doth not bless their mother."
Is that not you? Last year, did you not curse your founder, Fred Phelps, and remove him from the leadership of your church? What was the reason for this? Wasn’t it because he was advocating kindness, and for WBC to have a gentler approach? Then Phelps’ own sons and grandsons voted to remove him as pastor? Is my understanding correct? Why is it that you think you can call out a generation for cursing their parents when you’ve done that very same thing?
"There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up."
You, likewise, consider yourselves pure in your own eyes. You have sins that you have not repented from. You preach God’s judgment against unrighteousness, but have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to be preaching, without neglecting the others. You are blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.

This passage, given in Matthew 23:24, was spoken to Pharisees who desired to strain impurities from their wine (like gnats or other small bugs). Yet they filled themselves with massive uncleanliness (compared to swallowing an unclean animal). They would clean the outside of the cup and the plate so to look beautiful. But as Jesus told them, they must clean the inside of the cup and the plate so that the outside also may be clean. They think they look beautiful on the outside, but they are white-washed sepulchers, full of dead men’s bones (Matthew 23:27). There is a log in your eye that you must remove before you can protest the speck in another’s eye. You are atrociously immoral, but refuse to admit it.
"There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men."
On your website, you proudly boast your picketing schedule, yet I cannot find a single place where you draw any attention to the poor or the needy. I’ve been through your confessions of faith and there’s nothing about serving the less fortunate or caring for the destitute. Yet you cut with words, with teeth as spears and arrows, tongues like sharp swords (Psalm 57:4, Proverbs 12:8). How is it, Westboro, that Proverbs 30:14 is supposed to apply to Junction City High School but does not apply to you?

Don’t you know, as it says in Galatians 5:14, that the whole law can be summed up in one command: You shall love your neighbor as yourself? How do you do this? Your message is full of hate. It’s posted on the signs you carry. Where is the message of love? We read in 1 John 2:9 that whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Later in 1 John 3:15, it is written that whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

This echoes the words that Christ spoke in the Sermon On the Mount. Jesus said in Matthew 5 that if you hate your brother, you’ve committed murder. More so, if you’ve even called your brother names, you are guilty of the fires of hell (Matthew 5:22). You, Westboro, use derogatory terms to describe the people you have been called to love. Call them to correction, yes, but do it in love!

As Paul instructed Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:24-26, "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will."

The wrath of God will be poured out on all unrighteousness (Romans 1:18), but that’s not the full message of the gospel. The Bible goes on to say that God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us to save us from the wrath of God (Romans 5:8-9; John 3:36). The gospel is a message of love, not of hate. It is a message of new life and eternity, not of death and finality. You call yourselves "Baptists." Do you understand what baptism means? It is the act we follow in obedience that represents being buried with Christ in our sins and trespasses, and raised to new life.

If this is not the gospel you know and teach, then you also do not know Jesus Christ as Lord. The symbol of your church is an upside-down American flag rather than the cross, which we have been told we must take up daily if we are to be called His disciples (Luke 9:23). Know the Word of the Lord. Repent of your sins and follow Christ. Or else by the same measure that you judge, you also will be judged (Matthew 7:2).

To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Pastor Gabriel Hughes