Today we hear the word of the prophet Amos. Last week Zak reminded us that a prophet is like God’s postman. Well, that’s who Amos was. Amos is a good example of the special people of God who study what is around them; what is going on in their world, and their time, and seek to express a ‘Godly’ point of view. Sometimes this is issued as a warning that comes with a demand for things to change. A prophet is someone who interprets the circumstances of their time through the eyes of God, and who then in his or her words seeks to aid others to envision the world God seeks for God’s people.
As Amos would understand, and all of us today who live by the convictions of Christian faith would surely agree with him, the normal order in God’s world is that justice, righteousness, love and mercy should roll down through humanity and be the natural state of things. It is when there is a problem, a blockage (which might be a person, dictator, ideology), that the natural flow is interfered with, and the prophet’s call for ‘change’ becomes necessary to hear and enact.
All of humanity deserves life. The UN Declaration of Human Rights has affirmed this. Yet Amos recognised that the reality for some is often different. Some groups within humanity were, and are, denied the liberty that is the birth right of all. Our faith calls us to seek justice for all: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)
What does this seeking of justice look like for us today? I am sure that we’ve all felt, at one time or another, that we have been treated unjustly or witnessed some lack of justice. As I have said in the past, we are all created in the image of God and so all deserve not only justice but also respect, love and mercy.
Many of us would believe that justice can be shown when just or fair behaviour or treatment is shown, it is the quality of being fair or reasonable. But even these meanings of the word justice can be subject to our own understanding or interpretation. What is seen as justice in the eyes of one may not be seen as justice in the eyes of another.
What is God’s justice? What is Amos asking of the people of Israel, and us, in calling for justice? Does justice mean all are treated equally? That there is no prejudice between people or events? How do we define justice and how do we ensure that all our dealings are just?
These are big questions. Made even bigger at this time as we come out of restrictions and move into requirements that mean not everyone is treated equally. How does that impact on our command to love our neighbour? What would Jesus do in our place?