Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Cure for Homophobia

It was Oct. 7, 1998. Matthew Shepard woke up that morning to a day he thought would be like any other day. Little did he know that he would be abducted and have his skull crushed by being pistol-whipped with a .357 magnum pistol. Or that his body would be burned and then left tied spread-eagle to a fence out in the country, for somewhere between 12 to 18 hours before somebody just happened to go down that lane and see him there. At first, these passersby thought he was a scarecrow until they got closer and heard the subconscious groaning of Matthew Shepard. Five days later he would die in a hospital. All this because Matthew Shepard was a homosexual.

I don't know about you, but the fact that anyone, even someone who was involved in gross immorality, would be treated in such a way is sickening to me. But it gets worse because Fred Phelps, pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, led his congregation in picketing the funeral of Matthew Shepard, carrying signs that said, "God hates fags" & "No tears for queers."

From his pulpit in Kansas, over the Internet, and through his "picketing ministry" Pastor Phelps' preaches hate; that God hates homosexuals; that God hates America. Here is a sampling of this man's "ministry":

The Westboro Baptist Church used to pray for the good of America, knowing that God's blessings are mighty and His hand could be stayed from punishing this wicked nation, just as He stayed His hand from punishing Nineveh. America chose to spit in the face of their Creator, instead of heeding WBC's warnings, and now it is too late to pray for this nation...hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, IEDs, collapsing mines and more -- we pray daily for more outpourings of God's justice and wrath on this evil, hateful nation.
Then he has the audacity on his websites to ask people to turn their hearts to Jesus.

If, like Fred Phelps, you hate the people of this world, then you have a problem with God. If you think Matthew Shepard got what he deserved, you have a problem with and a misunderstanding of God. When I am tempted to view the mission field as the enemy I immediately fly to the book of Jonah; the factual narrative about the amazing grace and love of God for even the worst of people.

When God directed Jonah to go to Nineveh and "cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me" Jonah disobeyed the word of God and fled.


Jonah 3:10-4:2 tells us why.

And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
Jonah fled because he knew that God is a gracious and compassionate God, and the Ninevites were a violent, wicked, immoral, pagan people, and enemies of the Jews. Jonah wanted them to be judged, and he knew that if the Ninevites repented God would forgive them. Jonah wanted no part of that.

I must put myself in the prophet's sandals before I shake my head at his callous heart. You see, I don't have a problem with the Ninevites. But what about the homosexuals? Abortionists? Humanists? Terrorists? How about you? Are any one of those groups your Nineveh? Maybe it’s not a group of people, maybe your Nineveh is a person or family.

Do you want to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ? Read through the Gospels, and as you do, you will notice that Jesus has this unusual knack of compassion for even the worst of people. That really bugged the Pharisees. The really religious people, the really good people, could never fathom why this One who came and claimed to be Messiah had a relentless compassion for even the worst of sinners.

I think it's a lesson that we have a hard time learning, because we tend to be quite content with selective or partial obedience. Obedience within our comforts zones is easy. Obedience that makes me look good in public is easy. But to “Love [my] enemies, bless them that curse [me], do good to them that hate [me], and pray for them which despitefully use [me], and persecute [me]”; that's not so easy.

Al Mohler wrote the following:
If we are really a Gospel people; if we really love homosexuals as other sinners; then we must reach out to them with a sincerity that makes that love tangible. We have not even approached that requirement until we are ready to say to homosexuals, "We want you to know the fullness of God's plan for you, to know the forgiveness of sins and the mercy of God, to receive the salvation that comes by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to know the healing God works in sinners saved by grace, and to join us as fellow disciples of Jesus Christ, living out our obedience and growing in grace together."
The story of Jonah challenges us to change our attitudes about people; attitudes that run the gamut of bitterness, anger, outright hatred, or uncaring indifference to an attitude of relentless compassion; an unconditional love like that of our Savior. Does your heart reflect Jonah's heart or Jesus' heart? Don't hate what God loves, or be indifferent about that for which His Son died.

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