As I continue my annual journey through the Bible, I am struck with the absence of true “prophets” today; those who speak the truth regardless of the cost. Of course, the immediate response today is “whose truth?” The very concept of absolutes has been tarnished by those who have said one thing and done another, and too often in the name of God, imposing their traditions on society without compromise.
I struggle with the terms compromise and absolute, both necessary for this discussion but seemingly in conflict with their very intent.
There are absolutes, laws that govern our lives both physically and spiritually, yet there are legitimate places of compromise. If gravity were not compromised momentarily, flight as we know it could not occur!
This calls for the introduction of another term, grace. Grace is a compromising of the law for the sake of the one is currently blind to its benefits. That compromise is offered in hope out of our love for others. If God had not compromised his holiness to converse with my spirit I would never have known of the grace and mercy that has followed my life. God compromised with this sinner and so must I among those who have yet to experience sufficient life challenges to recognize their own need for grace. However, the compromise is not in principle but internal to my own life…I am compromised, discomforted even violated if necessary for the sake of others. This my friend is the gospel…for God so loved!
To become unyielding as a means of sustaining righteousness is the seed of religion and ultimately leads to destruction of the very relationships upon which grace might be proffered. The prophet Amos puts it like this: “But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness.” (6:12b NIV).
In a day when all absolutes are challenged, the last thing that the people of God need to do is demand righteousness, while denying justice, in a moment when prudent realignment of public policy is so necessary.
Back to the prophets, I was also struck this morning by the obvious transition in Amos’s life as this Old Testament writer wrestled with his beliefs about God and Israel. Early on, obviously frustrated with Israel’s unrighteousness, Amos paints God as wrathful and destructive, the image that so many roll out any time their lifestyles are threatened.
Yet as Amos nears the end of his tirade, he clarifies the problem as more our problem and what we have done with God’s truth, rather than any “attitude” of vengeance that might belong to God. Midway we hear the statement made so familiar by MLK, Jr: “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
Ultimately, Amos’ own attitude is compromised and the grace of God breaks forth from his writings:
11 “In that day I will restore David’s fallen shelter— I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins— and will rebuild it as it used to be, 12 so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name, declares the Lord, who will do these things.”