On Staying Soft-Hearted

Fred Phelps and his travelling circus from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka will be in our area Monday to preach their gospel of hate. These are the folks who travel around the country picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan with signs like “Thank God for IED” and “God Hates Your Tears.” Their church website is godhatesfags.com and godhatesamerica.com. Now they have godhatestheworld.com. Now this friendly bunch is coming to our area to protest at some of our area public and private high schools. How lovely. At least they are staying over in Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

How in the world could a church that at least claims to follow God and the Bible do and say such horrible things? Well, they start with a bad theology, a hyper-Calvinism that says God loves only the elect. Jesus died only for the predestined, and therefore God hates everyone else. He only created most of us so that He would have something to burn in hell. Keep going with that idea, and the gospel does qucijly change from “For God so loved the world…” to “God hates everyone expect me and you, and I’m not so sure about you.”

Because they are so convinced that they are the elect ones (and everyone else is not), they simply aren’t open to any contrary message… like the gospel. Their theological system tells them who God is and what God hates, and their hearts are closed to any other truth. Once you have the whole truth, then you don’t have to spend time seeking the truth.

There could be a warning in there for the rest of us. In our reading for today from Mark 4, Jesus tells the familiar “Parable of the Sower.” Actually, we should call it the “Parable of the Soil” because that is what it is about. God’s word is the seed that falls into human hearts, but it’s ability to bear fruit depends on the condition of the soil of the heart--
  • Some are hard-hearted. They are the pathway soil that is not open to the message of the kingdom, and they rejected the word completely.

  • Some are shallow-hearted. They are the rocky soil where interest in truth is shallow and soon dies out for lack of roots.

  • Some are mixed-hearted. They allowed their concerns for the things of the world to choke out their concern for God's word.

  • Some are good-hearted. They receive and live by the gospel and allow it to influence their whole lives.

Phelps and his band of kooks have become so twisted by their hate that their hearts are hard and cannot be penetrated by the gospel of the God who is love. Hate can do that. So can arrogance. And these people seem to have both in abundance. Perhaps something will soften their hearts and allow the gospel to penetrate and bear fruit. If not, they will one day discover that what God hates is hate.

The challenge for us is to remain soft-hearted and open to the gospel of God's grace. If we ever get to the point where we think we've got all the truth, we may find ourselves getting twisted as well.