Fred Phelps is dead. How should a good person respond to his demise?
The death of any creature made in the image and likeness of God (all of we humans) is a lamentable thing. Sin, long ago, brought human death into God's good world. The consequences are ubiquitous, touch every person every day their entire lives. But death is the exclamation point of sin, its natural result.
Everyone sins, but, despite the dad commonalities of sin (lust, greed, cruelty, perversity, murder, rape, and more), we each sin in our own way. Some of these affronts to God's holy and perfect character are public. Some are not. One Day, all will be known. The sins of Fred Phelps were egregious and well known: twisting Scripture, hating wrongly, judging wrongly, and more. He was the poster boy for the press's desire to find aberrant expressions of Christianity. He was in an infinitesimal fraction of Christians in his approach to life. In nearly thirty-eight years of Christian life, I have never met anyone who heralded the hatred of men on his terms.
No, God does not hate homosexuals. No, we cannot claim that an American soldiers death is God's revenge against America. Yes, Fred Phelps was a despicable human being. Yet a human being he was, and is. His sins were broadcast across the globe and his false church became a byword, a symbol of bigotry and religious extremism.
Fred Phelps is in the hands of a just and loving God--as we all are. Given his recent death, he is also in the thoughts of we creatures under the sun and awaiting the coming of the Son of Man. Only then, will all the secrets of men and the judgments of God will be perfectly known. The wisest way of pondering the death of this sad and bad man is not to ridicule him, not to jest at his and his family expense, and certainly not to gloat. "Ask not for whom the bell tolls, for the bell tolls for thee."
We, too, shall die. Most of us will die without media attention. But we will not die without God's attention. He is the ultimate audience, the audience of One. May we all search our own conscience for cruelty, perversity, and the false handling of the Holy Bible, remember that but One lived a holy and perfect life; and he alone is the One who offers hope based on the realities of his life, death, resurrection, ascension, session, Second Coming, and eternal reign.