Thoughts On Amos Chapter 5:14-15, Part 2


This is a continuation of commentary on Amos 5:14-15. So read the first part first. This is the second part.

“Choose good instead of evil! See that justice is done.”

Good and evil. I immediately think of the evil villain tying the damsel to the railroad tracks. A few thoughts later and I’m thinking of those who kidnap, those traffic human beings, those who murder, steal and those who judge others. There are also the evils of child abuse, spouse abuse, self-abuse through the use of drugs and excess alcohol, gossiping, and countless others. Followers of Christ enjoy a little perk we call grace. Since early Christianity we have rested easy knowing that our sins are forgiven and our place in heaven is secure. And though that place is secure, we must not take advantage of that grace. I, myself have allowed parts of my life to stay unchanged and unaffected by my faith because I knew it was covered by grace. This verse makes it clear, as does Paul in his own entries, that we are to choose what is right and not take advantage of grace casually allowing it to cover for us. A good friend once said (and he most likely stole it from someone), “You can tell how much you love God by how much grace you use”. Meaning being that if we appreciate what God has done for us then we show that by using as little of His grace as possible by choosing to do what is right. (Later in life he has confided that he realizes now he uses more grace striving to live right than he ever did when willingly doing the wrong.) Choose to do good and know that good must be done. It cannot be wished or willed into existence. Even speaking good to others has it’s limits, especially these days. Good must be physically done.

What am I doing that is good for others, and those least fortunate? What am I doing to see that justice is done? What is justice? By definition it means being treated fairly and reasonably. In reality justice is not so easy to define. Everyone has a different idea of what it looks like. Here are some of my thoughts. Justice would mandate that when a black child goes missing it makes national headlines just like it does when a pretty white girl goes missing. Justice would be to realize that the simplistic cry of the Capitalist, “Work hard and you will achieve the American Dream,” doesn’t work as well when there are people in power who make choices based on prejudices that keep you down. Justice would have compassion for those minorities, particularity Blacks and Native Americans and strive to understand their circumstance in America. Whites are quick to say, “I didn’t do it,” that we aren’t to blame (“I never owned a slave”), but every day we Americans live with benefits that are available because of the near destruction of one people and the enslavement of another. We see it as something that should be “gotten over”. After all slavery has been abolished for decades. Slavery has only been outlawed for 149 years. Then in the South Whites found loopholes that allowed them to keep a form of slavery (by another name of course) until 1928. To give you some perspective at how recently that all was I’m going to quote the coarse and often obscene genius Louis C.K..

“Every year, white people add 100 years to how long ago slavery was. I’ve heard educated white people say ‘Slavery was 400 years ago!’ No it very wasn’t. It was 140 years ago. That’s two 70 year old ladies living and dying back to back.”

We did a horrible thing as a people and it wasn’t that long ago.  To quote Louis C.K. again, “If you see a black person with gray hair, they probably remember what it was like to have to use a different toilet…” If we judge people who only began experiencing equality in the past 40 years by the same standards as those who came to America free men we are not being just. We cannot completely understand from this side what it’s like on that side. Rather than blowing the issue off and moving on we should at very least admit that there is a problem that we don’t fully understand, be willing to loosen our views and entertain the possibility that they are self-centric and based on fear and not the love of Christ and the Word of God. It’s time we stopped looking down at the less fortunate, whoever they may be, and instead see them as peers in the Kingdom of God with a willingness to attempt to compensate for wrongs done. It’s easy to disregard all of that as the ramblings of a soft-hearted extremist. It is also easy to find fault in a White man trying to write about African American issues. Take it as you will. I am but a voice crying from my home office about things I know very little about. I am simply attempting to apply the meaning of the text to our situation today. When I do that I realize that we are tasked with seeing that justice is done. We should not sit idly by and allow society to prefer one class over another. Christians should lead in the effort to better the lives of everyone, not just those who share our skin color, economic status, religious beliefs or who share our last name.

The American Dream can be a selfish dream. It only allows for personal success. Justice suggests that maybe, on your way up, that you take a few others with you. “How can I make a difference?” I ask myself from my comfortable chair in my office surrounded by Buzz Lightyear and Star Wars collectibles. The sad answer for now is, I don’t know. I don’t know a lot of things right now in my life. But I’m starting to ask the questions and beginning (finally) to look for answers. I have realized that there is more to life than what my religious experience taught me. My faith has kept me separated from the reality of the World. I have stayed away from the “sinners”,  those I feel superior to, those I fear and don’t understand while the One I claim to follow surrounded Himself with these people on purpose. He had nothing but kind and encouraging words for them. His insults and criticisms he saved for the judgmental religious leaders of the day. I’ve had it backwards. This is a beginning I suppose. Imagine you had a car full of umbrellas. You would probably find yourself stopping to hand one or two out to people at a bus stop on a rainy day. Then another one given to an elderly lady leaving a Walmart in the rain. These umbrellas would equip you to help others less fortunate and you would find yourself actively looking for opportunities to use that equipment. In a similar way, accepting that there is an issue and being willing to view it all through the eyes of Christ, and allowing the compassion He has to equip you will naturally begin to affect your thoughts, choices, opinions, connections, finances, and friendships. Again, it’s a beginning.

“Maybe I, the Lord All-Powerful, will be kind to what’s left of your people.”

What a wonderful promise God’s people have in this verse (sarcasm). “If you do exactly as I demand, I might, maybe, possibly be kind to those who survive the judgement I am pouring out.” God wants his people to do what is right even if they don’t survive it. They are to see to justice even though it may not benefit themselves. This is key. America is full of people who outwardly seem to be helping the poor and under-privileged… but somehow you just know there’s something in it for them. They’re getting power, influence, possibly riches and followers. Can we do the hard things, the right things, when there is no promise of personal benefit, but only because God wills it and it is the right thing to do? The text also eludes to the survivors of His existing wrath. Amos 5:3 warns that only 10% of their armies will return from battle. One from ten and 100 from one thousand. God doesn’t seem to side with nations who who mistreat their own people. Basically there are less people than there were and there may be less by the time they get their crap together. If this applies in any way to America, we must change immediately. The change can begin today with you and your family. Though God doesn’t seem to throw down old school wrath as He did, Christians know that our Judgement is coming. Here’s what that Judgement will look like:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory with all of his angels, he will sit on his royal throne. The people of all nations will be brought before him, and he will separate them, as shepherds separate their sheep from their goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, “My father has blessed you! Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created. When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, 36 and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me.” Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, “When did we give you something to eat or drink? 38 When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear 39 or visit you while you were sick or in jail?” The king will answer, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.” Then the king will say to those on his left, “Get away from me! You are under God’s curse. Go into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels! I was hungry, but you did not give me anything to eat, and I was thirsty, but you did not give me anything to drink. I was a stranger, but you did not welcome me, and I was naked, but you did not give me any clothes to wear. I was sick and in jail, but you did not take care of me.” Then the people will ask, “Lord, when did we fail to help you when you were hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in jail?” The king will say to them, “Whenever you failed to help any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do it for me.” Then Jesus said, “Those people will be punished forever. But the ones who pleased God will have eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46 (CEV) (Emphasis mine)

It’s all there. It blows my mind how we have seen assisting the poor and the so-called less important as optional. We have decided that charity is something that someone else does. Pastors do it. Missionaries do it. We empower them through our offerings and prayers. We take my junk to the Salvation Army… but are we involved in any of the activities and opportunities listed above? Personally, right now, I would say no. I am not. I now realize how important it is that I am. Maybe you do too. Remember the car full of umbrellas? Let’s have these things, the very mind of Christ, in our mind and look around for places to use what we have. And do what you do with no thought of blessings or rewards but simply because Jesus is apparently a fan of being fed, welcomed, clothed, cared for and visited by us.

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