Holy Week – April 17

4:17 candlesIt’s Simple: Love One Another
by Forrest Barclay

Focus Scripture: Jesus said,…“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35

I love Fred Phelps, founder of independent Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, and head of the church until he was excommunicated last year. Fred Phelps has been an outspoken hater of LGBTQ folks and has demonstrated at military funerals, harassing the families of slain soldiers and presenting God as a vengeful God. Still I love Fred Phelps.

I don’t love the way he has represented Christianity. I don’t love that his words and actions have led to the deaths of young people who don’t fit into his view of grace. I don’t love the pain he has caused so many grieving families during their time of mourning. I love that he has challenged me and my sisters and brothers in Christ to think really hard about the commandment in John 13:34-35.

Since it was announced that Fred Phelps has died, I have witnessed progressive Christians grappling with how to extend the kingdom of love to him. What I’ve come to realize is this. God’s love is so great that any attempt to define it, explain it or put boundaries around it proves woefully inadequate. I won’t try to define it. I will just repeat what Jesus said about the nature of God’s love: “…Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

It’s simple. Has God blessed your life? Extend that blessing to another. Has someone shown you mercy through God? Extend that mercy to another. Does God care if you are gay, straight, Black, white, Latina/o, Asian, homeless, wealthy, fed, hungry, female, male or something in between? Extend that non-judgment to others. Does God love you if you make mistakes? Extend that forgiveness to another, including Fred Phelps.

Lenten Practice: My challenge to you today — on the night Jesus shared a meal with his disciples — is this. “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

Lenten Prayer: Dear God, your love is something I can’t explain. It is to vast for humans to grasp. Yet it is also simple. I am to love others. No conditions. Teach me to love this way. Amen.

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