Monday, June 05, 2006

Snippets and Sound Bites - Protest

My local paper carried one of the saddest articles I’ve ever read yesterday. I can’t let it go without commenting.

Most of us remember the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, the gay college student, who was tortured and killed for his lifestyle in 1998. At the time, I recall being horrified by funeral protester’s words of hate scrawled in stark black and white and displayed proudly for the cameras.

Yesterday’s article revealed the continued work of this group of protesters. I’m not going to mention the name of the church and the pastor because I believe attention is their goal. The group is now targeting the funerals of soldiers. Their goal is, apparently, to spread God’s hatred for sinners, and somehow a fallen soldier proves this.

I have a goal, too. First, I want to offer my deepest sorrow to the family members and friends of soldiers or homosexuals or hardened criminals who may have encountered the horrific poison and hatred of this false “gospel.”

Secondly, I’d like to share a few thoughts. I follow the Jew – Jesus Christ – born in Bethlehem. He died once for all sins and rose again. The fully God, fully man Jesus wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus and again over Jerusalem who didn’t recognize Him as the promised Messiah. This Jesus asked God to forgive those who mocked, tortured and crucified Him. My Jesus, the one clearly portrayed in the Bible, told us to love and pray for our enemies and to do good, not evil.

The Jesus I read about and know is the same in all nine of the translations of the Bible that I’ve read from cover to cover. The same Jesus is found in the Message and in The King James Version. Subtle differences, a different word here and there do not detract from the person and the heart of Jesus. And nearly every religion recognizes His character as stellar.

The Jesus I know healed, loved and forgave despicable people, and He still does. He forgave me. Jesus never excuses sin, but He forgives it freely. Jesus embraced the dirty, unwashed, scum of the earth, loving them into salvation. And He had strong and terrifying words for the religious leaders who led others away from His truth.

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked according to His word. Nor does He want anyone to perish, again, according to His word. He does indeed love homosexuals, and soldiers and people just like me.

If you don’t know Jesus – please – don’t ever let one man or even a group of people define Him for you. Let Him speak for Himself.