TODAY’S READING: Amos 6–9
Amos, a simple shepherd, headed north to the neighboring country on his missionary assignment. The prosperity mixed with complacency irked the black-and-white, intolerant-of-the-selfish prophet, and he raged against the lavish lives of the rich, the oppression of the poor, and the ostentatious religious ceremony of the oppressors. Obvious to Amos, the people of God were not living as God would have them live.
Charles Sheldon wrote the classic novel In His Steps about a church community that seriously asks themselves what Jesus would do if He was in their shoes. The book ends with the central protagonist, Reverend Maxwell, giving one last sermon. He very well could be the Amos of our age.
Is it true that the Christian disciples to-day in most of our churches are living soft, easy, selfish lives, very far from any sacrifice that can be called sacrifice? …The Christianity that attempts to suffer by proxy is not the Christianity of Christ. Each individual Christian businessman, citizen, needs to follow in His steps along the path of personal sacrifice to Him…a call for a new discipleship, a new following of Jesus, much like the early, simple, apostolic Christianity, when the disciples left all and literally followed the Master. Nothing but a discipleship of this kind can face the destructive selfishness of the age with any hope of overcoming it…
…If our definition of being a Christian is simply to enjoy the privileges of worship, be generous at no expense to ourselves, have a good, easy time surrounded by pleasant friends and by comfortable things, live respectably and at the same time avoid the world’s great stress of sin and trouble because it is too much pain to bear it—if this is our definition of Christianity, surely we are a long way from following the steps of Him who trod the way with groans and tears and sobs of anguish for a lost humanity.
The missionary message of Amos was simply that the Lord will not tolerate selfish living while the nations of the world perish. To live like Jesus is to live sacrificially, to voluntarily simplify our lives, and to joyfully suffer the loss of all things for gaining Christ and for helping all peoples to gain Him with us. To live any other way is to bring the end of God’s blessing upon us, to have the Lord’s eyes upon us for harm, not good (Amos 8:2, 9:4). In a shocking revelation of God’s global intentions, He revealed to Israel that the Sudanese, Philistines (from the eastern Mediterranean), Egyptians, and people of Kir (from present-day Iraq and Iran) all have a place in His plan and heart (9:7).
Missionary Amos revealed God’s missionary heart—a heart that hates selfish indulgence and loves sacrifice that leads to the gospel going to the ends of the earth. The book of Amos ends with a passage that James will quote in Acts 15 (Amos 9:11–12). God’s missional purpose is the Messiah, the Son of David, establishing a kingdom that will and must include all the Gentiles, all the peoples of the earth.