Faithlife
Faithlife

Love, Hate, and Justice

Narrative Lectionary  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Living God's life isn't easy, however it can bring blessings to all who surround us.

Notes & Transcripts

How to live

Isn’t that ultimately what we’re here for? A better sense of how to live? See, life really isn’t supposed to be that complicated. Wake up in the morning, get up, showered, dressed, have something to eat, and get going with the day. Simple right?
Then deciding what we’re going to do is simple. If we’re working, we go to work, and do what’s required of us in our jobs. Get our work done, come home, eat, relax, and eventually go to bed and repeat the same the next day. If we’re not working, then we might have more freedom in deciding what we want to do instead of what someone else is telling us to do, but the process is basically the same.
Or at least it would be in a perfect vacuum. That is a vacuum where we don’t need to interact with anyone else. See in the descriptions that I just offered, there’s no interaction with another person. Life as I described it was simple because it was solitary.
That of course is no where near the way we live. We live in a complex arrangement of relationships. Satisfying one person usually means not satisfying someone else. Deciding on what is best for you, may not be what is the best for me. Get half a dozen people together, and unanimity in purpose is impossible. Eventually, even the most patient, accepting group will deal with anger from the members. Someone will feel hurt, and they’ll express it.

Anger

Anger isn’t supposed to be what we picture being the best response from a Christian. We are to:
Micah 6:8 NRSV
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
and
Luke 6:29 NRSV
If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.
Those are the prevailing images that we have for interpersonal behaviour. Kindness, gentleness, self-giving are to be our hallmarks.
John 13:35 NRSV
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13
The problem with all that though is that it is not realistic. When God created us, God gave us our emotional state. Anger is part of that, and we know that we will get angry, we will be upset, there will be conflict. So why then do we need all these passages that encourage us to go the extra mile to be nice, even when really we don’t want to?
Amos 1:2 NRSV
And he said: The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds wither, and the top of Carmel dries up.
Take a moment and look at what happens when God gets angry. The pastures wither. Livelihood is put in jeopardy. Drought, famine, are not far behind. The community becomes less than what it could be. Difficulty, fear, and loss become the norm.

Hate and love

The admonition in seems simple enough. Hate evil and love good. Since we’ve got the 10 commandments, that shouldn’t be all that hard. Follow those and we probably have the love good part down. And if we spend all our time focused on good, and loving good, the hating evil part will probably take care of itself.
There is a part of the first section of that verse though, that makes things a little more difficult. We probably miss it because we don’t have that many gates these days.
Amos 5:15 NRSV
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.
Gates were often places where people went for judgement in disputes. And just like today, if you have a good lawyer, someone who can speak well on your behalf, and present your case well, then you’re probably getting a better judgment than the person who doesn’t have someone eloquent on their side.
Gates were often places where people went for judgement in disputes. And just like today, if you have a good lawyer, someone who can speak well on your behalf, and present your case well, then you’re probably getting a better judgment than the person who doesn’t have someone eloquent on their side.
God’s justice isn’t supposed to be like that though. God’s justice is supposed to be on the side of loving good.

Justice

Look for a moment at what happens when justice reigns.
Amos 5:24 NRSV
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
An ever-flowing stream, is going to water the earth, and bring back the pastures that had withered up. Remember the beginning of today’s reading:
Amos 1:2 NRSV
And he said: The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds wither, and the top of Carmel dries up.
Amos 5:2 NRSV
Fallen, no more to rise, is maiden Israel; forsaken on her land, with no one to raise her up.
Instead of withering, we have lush pastures for the livestock to graze in.
Amos 5:24 NRSV
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
One of the things that really strikes me about that image, is the ever-flowing part. There is constant motion, and constant change. When I look at Tuck Creek, just outside our building, the water that flows down it is constantly changing. I don’t mean the molecules, although they are. I mean how the water flows. If you look carefully at it, sometimes it splashes over a rock, sometimes it goes gently around it, sometimes it comes higher up the bank, and sometimes lower down. Sometimes the water runs fast, and sometimes it runs slowly. It is ever-flowing, but how it flows is never the same.
Maybe justice is like that. Maybe justice isn’t about uniformity, and instead is about loving what is good in each person, finding a way to draw that out, and having that be a blessing to the world.
Maybe then we’ll not only have justice, but we’ll also truly live — for that is what our God wants for us.
Amen.
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