Rev. Betty Peebles and Rev. James R. Peebles Sr. dedicated 40 years of their lives raising three sons and serving others at Jericho Baptist Church, founded by the couple in Landover, MD, in 1969. Over the years, Jericho Baptist grew from “10 people to more than 19,000 members — making it one of the largest congregations in the Washington area,” according to the Washington Post.
James Peebles passed away in 1996, their oldest son in 1997, and middle son in 2004. Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010, Betty Peebles joined her two sons and husband, passing away from cancer at the age of 76.
In one of her last posted sermons, titled “James Wisdom,” Betty told her audience, “If you remain in God you cannot hit rock bottom.” These word were echoed decades earlier when her husband told their growing congregation, “Don’t get on the fast pace road! Stay quiet! Listen to leadership and God will guide you to assured victory…”
It is this message of victory, hope, and faith in God that became the cornerstone of their ministry. These are the words the world needs to hear–messages of a faith-filled, hopeful and victorious life.
This isn’t the case, however, when high-profile ministers such as Fred Phelps, a Baptist minister from Meridian, Mississippi, proclaims a very different, contradictory message. Phelps is well-known in the media for making outrageous statements such as, “God hates f–s,” dashing people’s faith, removing hope that God cares about them, and causing the Christian church at large to suffer defeat.
Mark Phelps, son of Fred Phelps, had this to say about his own faith and hope, and the message of his father:
“I believe in God and the Bible, and my father’s behavior doesn’t fit the description of behavior that would show in the life of one who loves God; behavior characteristics such as Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control. Instead, my father’s behavior characterizes, I believe, Hate, Outbursts of Wrath, Contention, Jealousy, Vengefulness, Misery, Harshness, and Selfish ambition.”
Mark Phelps’ own belief rings true with the message of the Bible, the same message Betty Peebles preached.
While Phelps Sr. receives undue press, giving the world a skewed vision of what it really means to be “Christian,” Phelps Jr. and Betty Peebles offer a less publicized message, yet truer to the heart of the one they serve. It is a lesson for Christians everywhere. The question is, which message is heard the most?
Actions, words and lives should accurately reflect what it means to live a life filled with hope, faith, and victory. By our lives, we either pass on hope to others, or remove it. By our lives, we lead others to victory, or cause defeat. This is true no matter what our religion.
In her final posting of the Apostles Pen, Peebles declared to her flock, “The testing of our faith is hard, but the result of the hardships that we endure is a closer walk with God, a deeper love for Him, and a faith level that grows to where our only desire is to be in the center of His will.”
Therein lies the faith, the hope and the victory we should all strive for. Jesus did not come to condemn, but to offer a victorious life.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV Bible).