Justice and Courage for healing

Justice, Mercy, and Accountability.
Reflection. 4/21/2021
Pastor Scott T. Arnold  - First Baptist Church of Los Angeles.
21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!  (Amos 5:21-24
       What is God’s view on the injustices and violence of mankind? The prophet Amos spoke up boldly as an outsider, as one who was not part of the Jerusalem temple tribe, as one often excluded and profiled ethnically. Amos told them that God was not impressed with their religious activities so long as there was injustice, racism, violence, oppression, and hypocrisy.  In fact, their religious activity was so displeasing to God that it was like a “stench”. All the burnt offerings that smelled so good to man were awful to God, because God is not impressed with show or superficial observances.  God cares about what is in our heart, the fragrance of the soul. God will not listen to all their beautiful music. The harps may sound beautiful to the human ear, but they are discordant to God’s awareness and displeasing. If we knew all that God knew, we too would find such assemblies of worship and praise “odorous” or “noisy”.  Perhaps the very hypocrisy of Christians (sometimes even us!) can be a hindrance to people who do not believe in God or find the church’s hypocrisy unacceptable and unpalatable.
      The antidote to hypocrisy and sin is seeking God’s justice and righteousness.  The prophet Amos longed for God’s justice to “roll on like a river”, and God’s righteousness to be like the waterfall that extends the mercy of God “like a never-failing stream.”  After the trial of Derek Chauvin of his killing of George Floyd by way of his abuse of authority as a police officer, we are reminded of this passage. We are reminded that justice takes time and intentional steps to move toward peace with God and one another. Racism is not just a social issue, it is a spiritual issue, a problem of the soul of humanity. We need justice to cleanse our sins and keep us accountable. We need the righteousness of God to guide us on the path of peace and reconciliation.  God is never-failing, where man has consistently failed. Still, God calls us, strengthens our frailty, helps us to overcome fear, and speaks through the prophets into our day.  We discover that religious activity is shallow and full of stench if it does not move in the path of reconciliation and peace, to exist in Godly peace with our neighbor.  This means that we are to treat our neighbors with love and respect, that we are to work on keeping our hearts moving in the direction of God’s call to justice and righteousness. Jesus is our Prince of Peace, and He calls us to this path of perseverance in the way of truth and grace.  Courage is required, grace ministers healing hope.
      In Christ,
Pastor Scott T. Arnold

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