I generally have avoided discussions of current events on this blog, but Westboro Baptist Church’s most recent antics have provoked me to such indignation that I simply can’t remain silent on this one. Just two days after the atrocity at Sandy Hook, Shirley-Phelps Roper, the spokeswoman for the ridiculous pseudo-church, tweeted that “Westboro will picket Sandy Hook Elementary School to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment.” Apparently picketing the funerals of dead soldiers holding up signs saying “God hates fags” and “Thank God for dead soldiers” isn’t enough, so now the families of the slain children and school teachers have to deal with their grotesque, damnable nonsense.
And when I say damnable, I mean it in the strict theological sense–because this truly is damnable. A lot of people have trouble with the doctrine of divine judgment, the notion that God has wrath, that he can be provoked to hatred and condemnation, precisely because of charlatans like the Phelps family trifling with the word of God. Ironically, the Bible shows us that it’s precisely because of these lying charlatans that we need to hear of God’s righteous condemnation.
See, the Bible says God doesn’t take lies about his character, about his Name, lightly. At the end of the book of Job, after Job’s friends spoke pious, but rash platitudes about him, ascribing Job’s misfortunes to God’s wrath or Job’s sin, God said to them: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7) In the midst of the comfort for Job’s sorrows, one of the most important things we need to hear is God’s condemnation of their false judgment–we need to him to reject the testimony of lying witnesses. We need to hear God’s ‘No’ of judgment, his indignation against those who falsely represent him, in order that his ‘Yes’ of comfort to the victims might be clearly articulated. If God’s comfort for the community of Newton is to be recognized, so must his anger against false prophets like Westboro.
Basically, Westboro Baptist furnishes ironic evidence that we need a God of wrath.
Update: This morning my pastor preached on the grace and forgiveness of God offered to all through Jesus Christ, a reconciliation even for the worst enemies. (Rom 5:8-10) As I considered my own offenses and blasphemies, it reminded me of what I forgot in my anger and haste last night when writing. Despite God’s anger, his just wrath against Job’s friends for their lies about him, he goes on to encourage Job’s friends to offer sacrifices and ask Job to pray for them that he might forgive them. (Job 42:8-9) This is the irony of the Gospel–that properly understood, wrath can comfort, and grace can profoundly disturb. As much as we ought to hate what they say, rightly condemn and stand in opposition to the false message they preach, the shape of the Gospel is one that leads us to do such things with a heart full of prayer that their hearts might be convicted and repent of their wickedness in order that they might receive the grace and mercy of God, walking in the newness of life.
Soli Deo Gloria