Written by one of the Genesis Project Pastors
This week our church is going out to serve our city. We call it our Wanna Give Away week, because our desire is to Give Away whatever we have, including ourselves, to show God’s love to Ogden. It is just a week, but a week we try and use as a springboard for the rest of the year.
Tasked with reading Amos and Obadiah this week, and thinking of our upcoming week of service, I am particularly drawn to Amos chapter 5. In this chapter the people of God are being rebuked for their lack of justice. They are given a good old fashioned scolding. Check out these passages from Amos 5 The Message.
Because you run roughshod over the poor and take the bread right out of their mouths, You're never going to move into the luxury homes you have built. You're never going to drink wine from the expensive vineyards you've planted. I know precisely the extent of your violations, the enormity of your sins. Appalling! You bully right-living people, taking bribes right and left and kicking the poor when they're down.
I can't stand your religious meetings. I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That's what I want. That's all I want.
It would seem that God is not nearly as impressed with us as we are with ourselves. Our wealth does not impress Him (and if you are American, you are wealthy). Our professionalism does not impress Him. Our church buildings, nice clothes, nice cars, nice houses; these do not impress God. In fact the only thing that Amos 5 tells us will please God is justice; oceans of it.
Justice. The thesaurus offers these alternatives to the word: righteousness, fairness, uprightness, decency, gentleness, ethicality, moral, goodness. These are what God expects of His people. He expects His people to treat the poor, the homeless, the widows, the orphans, the needy with goodness and justice. I have heard a lot of criticism directed at churches like ours. People will say that the church is
not an institution for social justice, and that our focus should be on Jesus. And while I most definitely agree that our focus should be on Jesus, I believe the church has to be an institution of social justice because God’s Word demands it. Here are just a few examples from God’s Word.
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.
"Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart."
Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.
Open your mouth, judge righteously; defend the rights of the poor and needy.
"He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’"
That last passage was talking about Jesus. Jesus said He had been anointed to preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for prisoners, give sight to the blind and release the oppressed. And while all of these things have a spiritual connotation, we would be remiss to ignore the literal connotation as well. So as we head into the week and embark on many different service projects, know that you are representing Christ. By serving our city this week, you are acting as our Savior would. You are imparting a little bit of His justice to our world. My prayer is that one week would not be enough for us. My prayer is that bringing justice to our broken world would become a way of life for each of us.