Sometimes evil is a chameleon.
Recently I have been studying the views of the prophets regarding compassion, justice, good, and evil. Reading and reflecting on their words has led me to ponder what exactly it is the modern church needs to hear from these individuals. As a missions pastor, injustice (and the proper Christian response to it) is something that I think about and deal with on a daily basis. I personally find that the prophetic indictments against the people of God for their failure to care for the poor and marginalized are always chilling. This week, I was struck by the simple command of the prophet Amos when he stated, “Hate evil, and love good…”
It strikes me that, while this command seems so simple, it is actually one that is very difficult for the American Christian to follow. We have to first consider what are the “evils” that we are most challenged by. There are plenty of obvious evils to which this verse applies, such as murder, lying, and sexual sin, and it is typically those that are the ones usually get our attention. However, the more insidious danger that I see facing the American Church is the prioritization of the “American dream”. It is the pursuit of our own welfare and contentment at the expense of helping the truly desperate and those who are utterly unable to help themselves.
Because few, if any, of the individual aspects of the American dream appear to be “evil” (and in fact, most of them are not), this pursuit can be deceptively dangerous. Providing for and protecting your family, being a hard worker, and acting as a good steward of your resources are actually all good things. They only become evil when they are allowed to become ultimate things, which is what I fear has happened to a large percentage of American Christians. Evil has become a chameleon, blending in with things that are good.
The prophets speak against Israel’s failure to help the poor and downtrodden. This was certainly a failure to keep the Sinaitic Covenant (Jewish law), but it was also a failure to apply the Abrahamic covenant, in which Abraham was promised blessings which were ultimately meant to bless the world. You see, the people of God have always been meant to be a funnel - a conduit for God’s blessing to flow out to the world. The Christian church in this country has been materially blessed to a truly unprecedented degree, and that blessing should be directed out from us in the name of Jesus to the world, not hoarded. The temptation to fill our houses with blessings in the name of security and comfort is not just too much of a good thing; it is an evil thing. In fact, it calls to mind one of the woes of another prophet, Isaiah, who lamented, “Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land.”
I am convinced that the Church desperately needs to repent of the worship of our disproportionate accumulation of wealth, and instead actively pursue using the resources that we have been blessed with to expand the Kingdom of God and ease the burden of the downtrodden. This may be the first step for the American Christian to cease to do evil and learn to do good.