Labelling or Loving

Throughout the often-overlooked book of Amos we read that social injustice will not be tolerated (8.4-6 for example). If you Google a definition of social justice, you will probably get something like this,

“Social justice is the equal access to wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.”

Society’s version of social justice will tell you that we need to look around and see everybody’s differences, we need to acknowledge just how different we are, and we need to affirm and accept all these differences. 

Society’s social justice says I see your differences, we need to recognise them, then treat everyone the same despite the fact we are all different. But first though, let’s differentiate between ourselves as much as we can. Then, when we’ve done that, let’s work towards equality for all these groups we’ve just made.  

Gospel social justice says it doesn’t matter what colour skin you have, or what passport you hold, or what social status you have.

Gospel social justice says we are all made in the image of God (see Genesis 1), that we all have inherent and intrinsic dignity, worth, and value, and that is what we need to affirm and acknowledge, not our perceived and conceived differences.

Saying, “I am going to treat all nations the same” still acknowledges that there is a difference. 

Gospel social justice just doesn’t see the difference. 

Saying, “I am going to treat all people the same, the rich ones and the poor ones” still acknowledges that socioeconomic levels are noticeably different to you.

Gospel social justice just doesn’t see the difference. 

Social justice sees difference but works to treat people equally. 

Gospel social justice simply sees everyone as equal

We live in a fallen world that expects submission based on social status, country of origin, the colour of your skin, but, as Christians we know this is not right. We know that true submission is given to God, who does not distinguish by race or colour or gender or bank balance.  

Gospel social justice is not equality

it is impartiality. 

Jesus came to redeem all, regardless of social status, country of origin, religious background; all.

Galatians 3 summarises this well, 

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek,

there is neither slave nor free,

there is no male and female,

for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

On the Day of the Lord, Jesus died for all. He died to bring all into His kingdom, no matter who we are, no matter where we are from, no matter what we do, no matter our social status, our career path, who we were, Jesus died for all. So what do we do with this?

Perhaps this is marginally easier for me to grasp given that where I live, I am the minority. I am the minority linguistically, socially, religiously, dermatologically, and economically. Where I live, whenever I go anywhere to do anything, I am talking to and interacting with people who look different to me, who think differently to me, who speak differently to me, who worship differently to me, and who spend differently to me. I am the minority in this demographically rich and diverse place. 

This means that when I go anywhere other than my own house, I see people who are different to me. I see people, not categories of people. It would be utterly exhausting to differentiate between them all based on society’s social justice framework and then do the work needed to treat them all equally. A trip to the supermarket would require military-grade planning and precision just to make sure I don’t offend anyone. So, instead, when I go out, I see people. Period. I don’t see a Bangladeshi man, a Filipino lady, a Bahraini family, an American, a Brit, an Indian, an Aussie, a Kiwi…I see people. I would encourage you to do the same. Stop differentiating and labelling and putting people into societal boxes, and just see people. Be salt to people. Be light to people. Don’t see them for who they are on the outside, see them for who they are on the inside; created in the image, formed in the womb, fearfully and wonderfully made, loved to the point of death, and redeemed by resurrection.

Simply then, Gospel social justice is not equality, it’s impartiality. See people as people. Stop labelling, and start loving. 

Amos 9.11-15 – Repair, raise, rebuild

Amos finishes on a totally different note to how it starts. There have been passages to challenge us, confront us, maybe even chastise us, but as we reach v.11 the tone changes completely.

There are allusions here to the Davidic Covenant, which you can read more about here.

Simply, it is

“…an unconditional covenant made between God and David through which God promises David and Israel that the Messiah (Jesus Christ) would come from the lineage of David and the tribe of Judah and would establish a kingdom that would endure forever.”

Rather than tear down in righteous judgement, God is going to repair what is broken, raise up what has fallen away, and rebuild what has been destroyed (v.11).

There will be a time of prosperity for His people (vv.13-15), of abundant blessings (v.13a), of unexpected blessings (v.13b), and of quality of life blessings (v.14). The biggest blessing of all is found in v.15, and that is that our salvation will never be pulled away…in Jesus we are repaired, raised, and rebuilt.

Contrasting this with the coming captivity of God’s people, looking ahead to the time of the coming Messiah and the promise made to His people that this would all be fulfilled through the line of David (v.11a) would have given those faithful Old Covenant saints hope and confidence for the future.

As for them, the same is true for us. God stands ready and poised to bring all of this to fruition. The very next thing on the prophetic timeline of eternity is the rapture of the church, nothing else needs to happen prior to that, so we wait with patient expectation.

This should give us a wonderful hope and confidence for the future, and put whatever it is we are battling today into perspective; will it matter tomorrow/next week/next year/when you are at home with the Lord?

His Word to us is very clear, Amos is very clear;

If we are living contrary to His Will, His Way, or His Word, He is righteous, holy, and just, and simply cannot not take action.

But, He is prepared to repair all things, to raise up all things, to rebuild all things, and He is prepared to do this through Jesus, and for those with faith in Jesus, says the Lord your God.

So is the Lord your God and do you have faith in Jesus?

Amos 9.5-10 – All one

In vv.5-6 we see the absolute sovereignty of God, His supreme power and authority over His creation. He touches the earth and it melts, He built heaven and earth, and He commands the waters of the sea with His voice.

Our focus today will be vv.7-8,

“Are you not like the Cushites to me,

O people of Israel?” declares the LORD.

“Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt,

and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?

Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom,

and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground,

except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,”

declares the LORD.

Cushites were those people from Ethiopia, and Israel had a false and misguided thought that they were a small and insignificant nation, therefore of lesser value. So, when we read

“Are you not like the Cushites to me,

O people of Israel?” declares the LORD.,

this is God showing them that, really, we are all small and insignificant in equal measure.

We know His Word to us tells us that there is no Jew, no Greek, no slave, no free, no male, no female, no Cushite, no British, no American, no South African, for we are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3.28).

That is where we find our value, not in the colour of our passport or the colour of our skin.

Those that are God’s people have an eternal security regardless of where they are from, and even though tough times will come, we shall never be shaken free from the grip of the Lord our God (v.9).

Amos 9.1-4 – God is everywhere

Today in Amos we see a reminder of God’s omnipresence, His being everywhere. God is not localised to one place at one time, as you are or I am, so, as I am sitting at my desk right now I am not at home. If you are reading this at home you are not sitting in your office, you get the picture. But God is everywhere, all the time, we can never flee His presence (Psalm 139.7).

Amos is relaying the coming judgement of God, and paints a pretty thorough picture of all the places we cannot escape God; Sheol/hell and heaven (v.2), atop high mountains or at the depths of the ocean (v.3), and in captivity by enemies (v.4).

Obviously the context here is not wonderfully positive for the people; God is saying that there is nowhere to run to escape the judgement that is coming. But, if we consider His omnipresence from a different angle, we can view it as truly positive thing.

When we are struggling for motivation in the humdrum of daily life, God is there.

When we are pushed to the limit of frustration in our parenting, God is there.

When we are having some quiet alone time in prayer, God is there.

When we assemble as a church family to worship Him, God is there.

As with many things in the Christian life, God’s omnipresence is about perspective. If we are living contrary to the way He says we ought to be living, then His omnipresence will feel overbearing and ‘big brother’-esque.

But, if we are doing our earthly best to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, if we are doing our human best to love our neighbour as ourselves (and relying on the indwelling Spirit to help us go beyond our human limits), then His omnipresence will be comforting, inspiring, motivating, and reassuring.

So, God is everywhere. How do you feel about that?

Amos 8.9-14 – Not by bread alone

Yesterday we saw that God has a perfect memory, and the ways He Sovereignly chooses to use it is based on our position before Him; justified through faith in Jesus or in rebellion against Him.

In vv.9-14 Amos continues to deliver God’s message of coming judgement for the persistent and consistent rebellion against His ways, and one really interesting part is vv.11-12;

11 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God,

   “when I will send a famine on the land—

not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,

   but of hearing the words of the Lord.

12 They shall wander from sea to sea,

   and from north to east;

they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord,

   but they shall not find it.

God is sending a famine on the land, but not of bread or water, of hearing the words of the Lord. This has to be the worst kind of famine. In difficult times, we need the Word of God the most.

Imagine driving down a dark, windy road in a country you are not familiar with, right then you would need your SatNav/GPS/direction-giving-device, wouldn’t you, and that would be the worst time possible to have that device not work on you. Similarly, for God’s people to have a famine of His Word at a time when they need it most is a terrible thing.

In Matthew 4.4 Jesus draws from Deuteronomy 8 when He says

“It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

The Word of God is so important to our life that it is the ultimate famine used in judgement by the Lord.

If we neglect and reject it when we feel things are going well, will it still speak to us when things are tough?

Personally I would rather not find out. Instead, let us first seek the Kingdom of God, and take to heart the truth that we don’t just live by the intake of food, but as we nourish our bodies we must also nourish our souls with the Word of God.