Transformed By Compassion
There is a lyric from a worship song that says, “Everyone needs compassion.”
Sounds nice doesn’t it?
But do we really believe that everyone needs compassion?
How well do we do in offering and extending compassion to everyone?
How powerful of a tool do you think compassion can actually be in transforming someone’s life?
I was listening to a podcast the other day called The Confessional hosted by ELCA pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. The episode I listened to was from April 21, 2021with Megan Phelps-Roper, former member of Westboro Baptist.
Phelps-Roper grew up on the Westboro Baptist picket lines, holding hateful signs as early as 5 years old. This was her family; people she loved and trusted and this life of slinging hateful rhetoric was the only life she knew.
Technology and social media made for just another platform she used to share Westboro’s message.
But something happened on this new platform.
Phelps-Roper said that she began to experience a disconnect between the place and people she loved and lived among and the compassion and mercy she saw from strangers she didn’t know online.
“We would see something terrible that happened, like if there was an earthquake or a fire or floods or hurricanes, or a celebrity died. Everybody around me, my family, the church members, we’d be celebrating and making plans to go and protest the funerals. And, you know, at the same time on Twitter, I’m seeing people mournful and grieving.” (Phelps-Roper, The Confessional Podcast April 21, 2021)
This compassion and mercy she began to see from others on social media piqued her interest and she began to actively search the Bible for that which she felt was missing from the Westboro message she had been taught.
Because of the graceful engagement, kindness and befriending from strangers she met on Twitter, her heart began to soften and her life was transformed because of compassion.
The result? Megan Phelps-Roper left Westboro Baptist, left her family, and began a new life, transformed by compassion. She is now a writer and an activist.
In the gospel of John chapter 8 we find the story of Pharisees bringing an adulteress woman before Jesus.
4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
Jesus response was one of compassion instead of judgment.
He said, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Then one by one, the crowds left.
This woman was spared because of Jesus’ compassion, kindness, mercy and grace.
Scripture does not tell us how she lived her life after this event and encounter with Jesus, but it had to have transformed her life in some way, right?
What other examples of compassion can you think of from scripture?
While Megan Phelps-Roper probably did encounter many Pharisee like reactions from people while she stood on the picket lines or used social media as a platform to spew hate, it was those people in her life who showed her the same kind of compassion, kindness, and mercy that the adulteress woman experienced from Jesus that changed her life.
If there are people who can show this kind of compassion, kindness, and mercy to a Westboro Baptist member and transform their life, what kind of change can our compassion, kindness, and mercy bring to those who we disagree with?
Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven… Luke 6:37
Grace and Peace,
To learn more about Megan Pheps-Roper’s story of transformation:
The Confessional Podcast with Megan Phelps-Roper: https://nadiabolzweber.com/101-megan-phelps-roper/ *Because of some of the language used in this podcast, it may not be suitable to listen to with children. Transcript of podcast is also found on this page.
Megan Phelps-Roper TedTalk: https://www.ted.com/talks/megan_phelps_roper_i_grew_up_in_the_westboro_baptist_church_here_s_why_i_left
Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps-Roper: https://www.amazon.com/Unfollow-Memoir-Leaving-Westboro-Baptist-ebook/dp/B07MYWWYDD/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3LFGJ6YF2QKD2&dchild=1&keywords=megan+phelpsroper&qid=1589236929&sprefix=megan+phelps+%2Caps%2C200&sr=8-1