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News for Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Opinion — Reflections
An Undesired Legacy
By Lonnie Wilkey
3/26/2014
editor, Baptist and Reflector

As people age, it becomes natural to think about how you will be remembered when you die.

Christians, especially, should wonder if they have made any kingdom impact.

Last week Fred Phelps died. I can’t help but think about his ministry and his impact. Quite frankly, he leaves a legacy that we would not desire to have.

Phelps was one of the most controversial pastors of his era. The 84-year-old pastor founded Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., in 1955. For the most part the church today is comprised primarily of his immediate and extended family members, according to news reports.

When I think of Phelps I do not think of a pastor who faithfully preached the love of Jesus to a world who desperately needed to hear about the Savior of the world.

Instead, when I think of this Kansas minister, I actually feel sorry for him. Somewhere along the way he missed the message.

Phelps and his church were known more for their protests and signs which read: “God hates fags,” “God hates America,” and “Thank God for dead soldiers.”

Baptist Press reported on Phelps’ death and included a portion of an interview of him by the Houston Chronicle in 1998. Phelps said: “You can’t believe the Bible without believing that God hates people. It’s pure nonsense to say that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. He hates the sin, and he hates the sinner. He sends them to hell. Do you think he loves the people in hell?”

God loved the people going to hell enough to send His only Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for them. But He also gives people a choice to choose where they will spend eternity. God does not send people to hell. People send themselves to either hell or heaven with the choices they make.

The truly sad part about Phelps’ legacy is that a non-believing world identified him with Christianity as a whole. Because he was pastor of a “Baptist church,” many people assumed he was a radical Southern Baptist. He wasn’t. In fact, several times over the years the Southern Baptist Convention went to great lengths to disassociate itself from Phelps and his hate-filled rants.

As we ultimately face our own death we need to be mindful of the legacy that we will leave. Ultimately, our greatest desire should be that people will see Jesus through the life that we lead and that they will come to know Him because of us.

 

 

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