AMOS THE SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR

The Hebrew prophets in the Old Testament were prominent figures in social justice during their time. Often, they were included in their writings and homilies scathing rebukes towards those who would impose injustice upon the masses. While their primary concern was the people’s relationship with God Himself, the prophets understood that tending to the needs of the poor was a crucial aspect of conveying God’s for the world. Moses can be considered the first prophet called to the divine stage to deliver God’s people from social injustice; however, the prophet Amos and his ministry provided a clear framework for how the ideal role of the prophet (old and new) as a social reformer was intended to look like.

Amos is the author of the Book of Amos, the third book in the Old Testament involving the writings of the Minor Prophets. He was a shepherd from a Hebrew village called Tekoa. He did not receive formal education, whether it be theological, spiritual, or otherwise. He was a man of humble beginnings and was most likely a man with a humble end. Called from God during his time as a lowly shepherd, Amos preached to Israel during a time of oppression of the lower class (Am. 7:15).

Amos prophesied to a society drenched in dire classism, with an elite tier of Israeli authorities (civil and religious) who enjoyed wealth and prosperity while the majority faced poverty and affliction. The epitome of Amos’s prophetic ministry is summed up in this verse: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” (Am. 5:24 NRSV). Amos’ words can be applied to any social situation which Christians may face today, and the fact that Amos regards justice and righteousness as inseparable concepts is significant in that it teaches us that God is both just and righteous.

The people whom Amos prophesied to had “turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood,” (6:12b NRSV). Such scathing words for those enjoying a luxurious lifestyle while the poor rot in the streets are rare in Christian communities, where many choose to blame the poor for their failures rather than beseech the rich to have mercy. One has to wonder who the modern Christian can relate to more in the context of Amos’s oracles of woe. To the prophet himself or the wealthy and unrepentant people?

Imagine sitting in church on a Sunday morning, and as you leave the church building, your pastor is confronted by a lower-class man, who claims to have obtained a prophetic mission from God. “Do horses run upon rocks?” He demands of him, “Does one plow the sea with oxen? But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood,” (6:12). One does not have to wildly conjecture what the response might be. “Just another nut job,” the pastor might think to himself, nodding to the man and hurrying to his car.

Amos himself confronted social issues head-on. He declared the judgments of God and the path to salvation as shortly and sweetly as possible, disavowing any possibility of lenience on the basis of partiality. Yet, even with his stern and bold personality, Amos had a loving and godly spirit. “Seek good and not evil, that you may live;” he pleaded to the people of Israel, “and so that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,” (Am. 5:14-15a NRSV). Needless to say, Amos set the standard of which attributes a godly prophet should have: boldness, steadfastness, compassion, and love.

Now let us compare Amos with the magnitude of preachers today who allegedly preach the Word of God. Many Christian preachers stand at the pulpit and espouse from their mouths what may prove contradictory to the gospel. If you turn on the television, finding a well-dressed preacher pronouncing that God desires his children to be wealthy is not uncommon; he says that nice things are signs of God’s favor or that we are able to acquire whatever we desire if we simply have enough faith. This is not the message which Amos brought to God’s people; in fact, it is the exact opposite. Do you know of a Christian who has exposed the lavish lifestyles of many contemporary preachers today as Amos did in his time? Or is the luxury enjoyed by countless Christian leaders considered to be the normative function of their office?

God called Amos to preach to His people about the social issues in his day. In a way, God is calling us out to perform a similar service. The Torah prescribes that we do not “render an unjust judgment” (Lev. 19:15), and Amos’ command to hate evil, love good, and establish justice rings through the countless centuries by communicating about the Holy Scriptures. Jesus’ promotion for social justice is unique in that he encourages his disciples not to express justice and goodness through the Law but through acquiring a spirit of love. The purest expression of the Christian life is a boundless love for both God and one’s neighbor (Mk. 12:28-34). Prophets today possess this responsibility that was thrust upon Amos back in the days; unarguably, it is the responsibility to proclaim to the unjust and the ungodly the words of the Lord and their social implications.

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How can you be more like Amos in your ministry?

THE PREREQUISITE OF ECCLESIASTICAL REFORM

If Christians wish to contribute to social reform, then they must start with their own institutions. It would be pointless to single out individual communions, denominations, or congregations as guilty of a particular failure on this part. Each Christian body in the world, I think, suffers from what I am about to speak on. The deficiency in the Christian world towards loving one’s neighbor is not an exclusively Christian issue. It is, like many great things, a matter of our fragile and imperfect humanity.

The Church, in its universal, invisible respect, is an organism in constant need of nourishment and care. Consider the Church as one that symbolically and mystically represents that of the human body, a meaningful metaphor the Apostle Paul provides in 1 Corinthians 12:27. The organic body of a man requires exercise, food, and stimulation through interaction with others. If a man’s body is not exercised, he grows lazy and unhealthy, hence unable to move onto adventurous quests of great feats. If a man is not fed, he grows extremely skinny and is a gaunt, grumpy creature; he will eventually wither up and die. If he is not given an outlet for social stimulus—that is, interaction with one’s family, friends, and strangers—he grows antisocial and spiteful towards others, drawing himself away from the world and becoming hidden from mortal eyes.

Like the human body, the Church requires to be consistently nourished, renewed, and socialized. Otherwise, it will crumble and become dissonant of the institution which Christ founded. But how is the Church exercised? How is she fed? How does she socialize with others?

Firstly, the Church is exercised through its take on difficult social, political, and geopolitical issues. When God’s people are forced into what might be considered uncomfortable situations, the Church’s will and capabilities are stretched and strengthened like those of a bodybuilder, hence giving her a strong arm to guide those who come to her embrace. In relation to this, we have seen phenomenal feats of exercise in the Church over the last 20 centuries, which the Jerusalem Council attests to (Acts 15). We have also seen these feats in the Church’s defense of the nature of Christ and the Trinitarian Godhead under the influx of Arian and Nestorian heretics, among others. Presently, however, the church has not hurdled any of such obstacles. The organism, once a strong and hardy institution due to its consistent opposition, has become lazy and fat, unable to defend itself against arguments which would have been utterly destroyed by the strength of the Great Church in her prime. Congregations have shrugged off social, political, and geopolitical issues as individual matters. In effect, the organism itself has too often refrained from involving itself in formal matters in fear of offending its opposition.

Secondly, the word of God feeds the Church. The preaching of truth at the pulpit and the application of sound doctrine are the lifeblood of the Christian faith. Without a solidly grounded preacher, the local congregation will not have a solid foundation. The preacher, then, can be understood as a prophet for his church, leading the people through social issues and civil matters and influencing and guiding them through dangerous waters without anything but the Word of God. Therefore, the Church must be fed by the Word of God, or else, like its organic metaphorical counterpart, it will wither up and die.

The inception of pastors of congregations who choose to not preach the truth due to its possibly offensive nature and context risks the nourishment of the Church as an organism. Truth must be preached at all costs and in all situations; otherwise, the Church will starve, and its people will be willing to settle for any crumb of bread as their practicing authority. As the prophet of his congregation, the prophet must guide his church to the wealthy spiritual deposit of the Word of God. He must also bring his flock to the “spiritual gym,” so to speak, so that they may exercise the Church and its social function in addition to its understanding of the Word. Indeed, the two are inseparable.

Thirdly and lastly, the Church is socialized through—obviously—its social interaction with the outside world. How do Christians treat those who are not Christians? If the treatment of non-Christians by Christians is anything less than the love which Christ expressed for us upon the Cross, then we are certainly hopeless. Although Jesus sets the standard impossibly high, but his is an example for all of his disciples to follow regardless of their political beliefs. The social aspect of the gospel is crucial so Christianity will understand the world and work with it to accomplish God’s will. We cannot evangelize those whom we cannot understand; therefore, the Church must be socialized by treating the poor, the needy, the hungry, and the homeless as they would Christ Himself.

THE FIVE-FOLD MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH

The office of prophet exists only because of the life and work of Christ. Each of us is given “grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people” (Ephesians 4:7-16 NRSV; cf. Psalm 68:18). The only reason the prophetic office is in function today is because of the work of God through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

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We cannot evangelize those whom we cannot understand. How does this statement change your perspective of addressing social issues?

THE IMPACT OF MATERIALISM IN CHRISTIAN CULTURE

This culture of “have it now” and instant gratification has negatively impacted Christianity as it has blinded Christians to the call to sacrifice. In the famous words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of his world… When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Sadly, this call has gone unheeded and disrespected by many evangelicals today; instead, Christians today brag about their new home, new job, or new car. Searching through the #blessed category in social media outlets reveals the strong correlation which many make between God’s favor and material possessions, without realizing that the bible states otherwise. Remember the words of Jesus: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” (Mark 10:25 NRSV).

Many Christians today are distracted by social media and by the “interconnectedness” which technology brings. They are too busy tweeting about their material blessings while countless children die of poverty every year. The materialism in this present age has undeniably made the world revolve around the individual. In addition, Christians presently consider themselves blessed when they enter into a top-tier college, acquire a dream-job, or attend a renowned Christian rock concert. While God loves his children and certainly tends to their needs, God does not will for Christians to pursue temporal, material endeavors.

Consider the lives of the apostles, who, upon their apostleship, did not pursue great worldly feats. However, they endured civil and religious persecution by various authorities because of their commitment to making a change in the world. If Peter were alive today, would he have spoken of the wrong concept of being blessed? Certainly not, and according to tradition, Peter requested to be crucified upside-down due to his conviction of unworthiness to share the same death as Jesus Christ.

The love of money and possessions is not exclusive to Christianity; however, even Christians are not immune to the trap of greed and covetousness. Nonetheless, the command to the rich, young ruler applies to our lives as well. Besides, we are expected to sell all that we have (or are able) and give it to the poor in order to follow Christ. If we seek to humbly brag about our newest gadgets, feats, or any other material possession or achievement, then we will fail to sacrifice any luxury to help others and instead rot in the pit of our worldly desires.

 

Don’t miss out on our LIVE conference call as we discover learn about being the Prophet in the Marketplace.  Here are ways to join:

 

1) Call 515-604-9266

2) Go to startmeeting.com, and use the login: BishopJordan

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK SACRIFICE AS A CHRISTIAN AS YOU THRIVE IN THIS “HAVE IT NOW” MENTALITY?