“Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” Romans 14:13 (King James Version).
Today the US Supreme Court is hearing a case dealing with protesters picketing funerals of deceased military personnel. Members of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS, were sued for interrupting the funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder with protests, stating their belief that “…U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are punishment for Americans’ immorality, including tolerance of homosexuality and abortion.”(1)
The family sued the church and won. The protesters appealed the verdict and accompanying award to the Snyder family, pleading free speech issues. The award was reduced and then eventually overturned in the appeals process. The Snyders are asking for reinstatement of the judgment.
While I agree that the Bible speaks out against the practice of homosexuality and the commission of murder, I heartily disagree with the way this church is attempting to address the issue. What they demonstrated is not Christianity, but rather hate. Hate cannot change hearts, only harden them.
Peter pointed out in his second epistle that God wants all to be saved (2). He wants it so much that He was willing to sacrifice His son to pay the penalty of sin. Westboro’s assumption that God would punish unacceptable behavior in the United States by killing soldiers overseas is against everything I have learned from the Bible.
Instead of picketing a private ceremony this congregation would do better to show some love. Yes, freedom of speech exists but it is not a license to intrude on the grief of others. Every freedom carries with it a responsibility to use it wisely. As Christians, we are called to love, not sow seeds of hatred.
Paul warned against causing others to stumble through our actions in our freedom. Do the actions of Westboro Baptist Church glorify God or turn hearts away? I fear they turn people away. Rather than reaching out to a grieving family in reconciliation to show God’s love, these protesters seem to polarize opinions. Their energies could be put to much better use in building up rather than tearing down.
God is the Creator of all people: homosexuals, women who have had an abortion, medical personnel who perform them, thieves, murderers, tax cheats, welfare cheats…you name it. We are all sinners in one form or another. No one can claim to be without sin and every sin is heinous. The old adage “hate the sin, but love the sinner” still holds true. If we hate God’s children, if we mistreat them, if we cause them to stumble, then we are as guilty as any mass murderer. As Christians, we should disapprove improper behavior, but still love the person involved.
“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” I John 3: 14-16 (King James Version)
I don’t know what the Supreme Court will decide on this case. Many parties with vested interests will be weighing in on it. I do know one thing for certain: there is a Judge higher than SCOTUS who will rule on the hearts of those involved.
Father, I pray that Your love will touch the hearts of the people involved in this appeal. Lead us to interact with others in ways that glorify You and share Your love with the world. Direct us away from actions that will hurt others when we can find something to help them and show them Your love.
(1) MSN: Court hears ‘Thank God for dead soldiers’ case: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39531700/ns/politics/
(2) II Peter 3: 8-9: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Peter%203:%208-9&version=KJV