Pastor Steve Street | June 14, 2020
Amos—the prophet of the Lord God Almighty (“the Warrior-God”), preached the message of Yahweh in the eighth century B.C. The central theme of Amos’ prophesy is justice.
“Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24). By comparing justice to the powerful current of a river in contrast to a dry stream bed that experiences only seasonal flooding, the Lord emphasizes that justice must be constant in a society—whether in the legal system or on the streets or in the halls of power. “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts” (5:15).
In our broken, sin-stained world, there is much evil to hate. Yet there is also the redeeming Presence of the Lord God Almighty who is restoring His rebellious children. Amos reminds us that one of the many remarkable characteristics of Yahweh is that He is a “Warrior-God”—the Lord God Almighty. His war is against the evil of injustice. The armies of heaven are far from defeat; they march on with the limitless power of a loving and just God. There is much evil to hate; there is also much good to love.
Amos tells us to hate evil, love good, and “maintain justice in the courts.” Corruption in our broken world is like a cancer eating at the healthy body.
Courts are only as just as the judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and jurors who both hate evil and love good.
Law enforcement officers are on the frontline of the battle between good and evil, between a just society and a decaying culture. The police are only as just as the men and women who take up the mantel to serve and protect. Responsible officers hate evil and love good.
Amos, speaking for God, challenges every member of the human race to “maintain” justice by realizing our propensity for corruption and ensuring that the cancerous tissue is removed so the healthy tissue can flourish.
When we perceive that an injustice is taking place near us or even to us, we ratchet-up the rhetoric in an attempt to defend ourselves and get the attention of others. Amos told the people of God, “the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil” (Amos 5:13). The prophet is certainly not calling for a gag of speech that confronts evil; in fact, the prophet Amos himself is speaking boldly to the injustice in the society of his day. Not careful with his rhetoric, Amos calls the rich women who were oppressing the poor… “fat cows” (Amos 4:1). Listen to hear and understand the pain of others. James writing in the New Testament challenges believers, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Listening helps us empathize with the hurting person and helps the hurting person ratchet-down inflammatory rhetoric.
Four Rules for a Better America
Dr. John Gottman is a well-respected marriage researcher. Using the insights gained from studying highly-conflicted marriages, Gottman suggests we apply those practices to our current highly-conflicted country. Gottman calls them the “Four Rules for a Better America.”
Rule 1: Focus on other people’s distress with empathy. Empathy is a cornerstone of emotional intelligence, an essential quality for successful relationships. You don’t have to agree with someone to empathize with them. You don’t even have to have the same experiences to empathize with them.
Rule 2: Keep your positive versus negative comments and interactions to a ratio of 5:1. You have power to do this. The positive things you say versus the criticisms that you level should be at a 5:1 ratio at least. That means five affirming, praising, and loving tweets and Facebook comments for every critical one.
Rule 3: Avoid contempt with everybody, all the time. No exceptions. It’s bad for you and it’s bad for the country if you treat anybody with contempt. Research shows that contempt kills relationships. If we want to have happier relationships, and be happier people, we have to get out of the habit of expressing disdain for each other. Anger is not the same as contempt. Contempt is belittling and disrespectful. It makes us less empathetic toward our fellow humans. Anger engages us. If you do it in a respectful way, anger can be constructive because it leads to mutual understanding.
Rule 4: Learn to cooperate and have dialogue with those of whom you disagree. Seek out and be around people who are different than you are. Before you speak, see if you understand what the speaker before you has said. Listen to understand, and then frame your rebuttal.
“Hate evil, love good, maintain justice in the courts…Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Amos 5:15, 24