I usually don't venture into the realm of making negative comments in my blogs or in my newspaper columns. I try to focus on the positive. There is enough negativity out there and I don't think God likes it. Jesus once said that he came to give life and to give it abundantly. He wants to bless us and all we need to do is come to him.
You can see that throughout the pages of the New Testament as Jesus cozies up to prostitutes, tax collectors, robbers and revolutionaries. He loves them all and invites them to turn around and follow his lead so they can have a satisfying relationship with the Father. He doesn't berate them or condemn them. He simply reaches out to invite them into something that will change their lives.
Today that's my job and the job of all of us in ministry. We are called to share his love and to invite people into a relationship with God that is fulfilling and life saving. As Christians we believe that God so loved the world that he sent his son to save us. We know that all of us are sinners and all have fallen short of the glory of God. That includes those of us wearing clerical collars and vestments and those of us sitting in the pews of the local church. So we are called to reach out with the same grace we have known.
Yet there are some who missed that lesson. They feel called to pass judgment on others and condemn them. They feel that they are so righteous and so blessed that they can stand in God's place and pronounce judgment. The truth is that they will be judged by the same measure that they judge and I pity them.
I bring this up because I was totally appalled by a video that came across the Internet this holiday season. It was put out by Rev. Phelps and members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. I am embarrassed to even say I am a Baptist after seeing this. I can only say that his church (if you can call it that) is as far from the Baptist origins as the Baal worshippers in the Old Testament. This is the same group that declares "GOD HATES FAGS" and celebrated the death of Matthew Shephard. This is the group who made the statement after September 11 that this was God's retribution for America embracing the gay lifestyle. This is the group who protested with hateful signs at the funerals of those who died in Iraq and declared that this was God's vengeance. The truth is that even if you do not believe that the homosexual lifestyle is compatible with scripture, this kind of hatred is as equally out of line with scripture if not more so in light of the way Jesus dealt with people.
This Christmas the Westboro group ratched up their rhetoric a notch with this new video. A group of children are front and center singing a song that declares that Santa Claus is leading everyone to hell. The song is sung to the tune of Santa Claus in Coming to Town. The kids are having fun and ringing bells as they declare that everyone who believes in Santa is on the way to hell. It is pure hatred and filled with venom. It reeks of the serpent himself. This is without a doubt, the work of the devil. He has blinded these people into believing that they are so righteous that they can say and do anything. I feel sorry for them. For they will be judged.
The truth is that God has often used every means to bring people to him. As Christians we have the opportunity to share the greatest love story of all time with our friends and neighbors during the holidays. We can tell them that behind Santa, Rudolph, Frosty and the other icons of the secular version of Christmas, is the love of God we see in the manger in Bethlehem. Like the Apostle Paul, we can take the appealing elements of this culture and speak to the hearts of a new generation. This unknown God became known in Bethlehem and today we can tell his story. And like the old song says, "They will know we are Christians by our Love."
I pray in the new year that all of us can be ambassadors for our God. I pray we can share his love and point people to the Lord of Lords.
God bless. Happy New Year.