I was reading in the book of Amos today and God said this:
“I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.”
As one who attends a worshiping church, I was taken aback by this anger from the Lord. It would be easy to rationalize it away…that God was angry with those apostate Jews of Amos’ time. The vision God gave Amos was a people who were not so evil that we couldn’t relate to them. They did many of the right religious things, singing worship songs and observing their religious rites and doing “church” in a Jewish context. However, there was still injustice in their land, and the people desired to fit into the surrounding culture by worshiping its idols. God was angry because they were only half-hearted servants, worshiping God ceremonially, but not with the fruit of their lives.
These thoughts bring me back to our present situation. Many people in the modern American church, the group politicians call “evangelicals”, think that loving God and expressing that love are the end-all of Christianity, but God seems to think “not so much”. He seems to be making the accusation through Amos that it is never enough to give lip service to God. It’s never enough to make a show of worship without showing God’s worth through serving His wants. What God wants is simple, maybe too simple. He wants justice and righteousness as He records in the next verse of Amos, “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a flowing stream.” If Christians are to deliver the justice that God wants flowing like a stream, we have to immerse ourselves in the processes that deliver justice. We can’t just dabble in it. We must be driven to see God’s wants delivered. We must resist spiritualizing justice by telling ourselves that it is only the heart God cares about when He’s clearly telling us it’s the reality He cares about also.
I’ve been participating in a men’s ministry in our church called Knights of the 21st Century. It’s a good program. It utilizes the imagery of the knight as a symbol of fine character and nobility of purpose. The Knights program disciples men over the course of five years to become men of integrity, but recently I’ve asked the question, “to what purpose?” It reminds me of the sport of body-building. The body-builder goes to the gym every day to work using dead weights and machines to tone the body and build muscle mass. The amount of work the body-builder performs is admirable, but its only end is to sculpt the perfect body. The work doesn’t build railroads or rockets to the moon or newer highways or any other product that impacts the body-builder’s community. The work doesn’t produce any fruit beyond the perfection of self. And so a Knight who improves himself internally and hangs out with his buds around the round table can never be a true knight until he goes out on a mission to do what knights once did…to champion right in an unrighteous world on behalf of his sovereign king.
Here are just a couple of examples of how God has spoken His want beyond Amos. He caused Micah to write in Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” He spoke through His son Jesus Christ as recorded in Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “. It’s hard to imagine loving your neighbor as you love yourself without taking action to make the world more just on your neighbor’s behalf. Jesus clarified this when he was asked who is your neighbor. In response, he told a story about a Samaritan helping a man who had been accosted by robbers. The Samaritan was a knight, not just in thought or spiritual belief, but in action.
At this point I must acknowledge that my brothers in Christ will be skeptical. We’ve been conditioned to believe that getting involved in the world is “of the flesh”. One Christian web site opined, “All our service for God must flow from those two commands to love, or it is not real service; it is fleshly effort,” and he quotes Paul writing in Romans 8:8 that those who are “in the flesh cannot please God.” Yes, it is possible for that hypothetical someone to pursue works in place of following Christ, but I would contend it is not possible for those of us who are in Christ. Christ in us and the Holy Spirit indwelling us overwhelms our ability to stand against His wants. Our works are His works, so we must not be so afraid of being doers of the Word. We must reject our reservations about works because it has allowed ungodly forces a greater share of the world than they deserve.
Our pastor spoke with us about recent events in Georgia where the governor vetoed legislation to protect pastors who chose not to officate in same-sex weddings. The governor seems to have yielded to pressure from various corporations which threatened to withdraw their business in Georgia if the state passed a law that discriminated against homosexuals. It’s another example of attacks against religious freedom and individual conscience, and Pastor Jerry called us to unite in action now that it has gotten to this point. However, he was quick to remind us that the fault is our own. Everyone knows it is the inaction of Christians that has brought us to the place we are today. Our unwillingness to obey God’s call for justice has brought us to the point where justice is denied to ourselves (another lesson we can learn through Amos).
And so, let us set aside our reluctance to be activists in our lost world. Let us remember what Jesus said as recorded in Matthew 12:50, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus calls us to be doers. He want us to permeate the culture with the Father’s will so that his kingdom on earth can thrive. The King wants to send his knights on a mission to right injustice.