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 5.6-15 – Cause, curse, cure

6 Seek the LORD and live, lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel,
7 O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth!
8 He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning and darkens the day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth,
the LORD is his name;
9 who makes destruction flash forth against the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress.
10 They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth.
11 Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him,
you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
but you shall not drink their wine.
12 For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins– you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate.
13 Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time.
14 Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said.
15 Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Today we see the awesome, Sovereign power of God (vv.8-9), then we see a cause of judgement, the curse of judgement, and the cure to this judgement.

Amos opens with an exhortation that we all need reminding of, most likely each and every day; Seek the Lord and live...How seminal this is to our life, how primary in importance is this command, seek the Lord and live.

Then a hint towards the major theme of the book, social injustice, in v.7, ‘O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth!’. God is powerful enough to form stars and to save His people, strong enough to call for the waters of the sea, but also righteous enough to ensure judgement against that which He decrees should not be.

So, the cause, the curse, the cure; social injustice and taking advantage of people (v.10-11a), leads to not enjoying the fruits of labor (v.11), and God is always aware of the wrong we do, we never sin in secret (v.12), but, there is always a cure to our human-ness;

14 Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. 15 Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

For us, it may not be social injustice that is our cause, it may be a whole host of things;

…it could be getting angry and shouting like a red-faced maniac when someone pulls a dangerous move on you on the road.

…it may be the idolatry of career and money.

…it may be engaging in activities during the week which you would never tell anyone about at the weekend at church.

…it may be anything that actively puts distance in the relationship between you and God.

The curse will always be the same, that very distance.

God loves you, yes.

God wants to be in a personal, loving, intimate relationship with you, yes, but, He will never force this on you, forced love is not love, just as forced freedom is not freedom.

Reassuringly, the cure is always the same, it has always been the same, and it always will be the same…seek good, and not evil, that you may live;

Now, post-birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, this is where we find the ‘good’.

Seek Jesus and live.

Seek good and live, seek Him and live. He is God’s chosen and anointed One, sent to take away the sins of the world, no, the entire cosmos, everything we can possibly see with the world’s most powerful telescope, and them some…seek Jesus and live. 

How encouraging to know that whatever our cause is, despite the curse being the same, that the cure is greater, more powerful, move loving, more willing, and more able. Let us seek Jesus, and not evil, that we may live!