Loving our Country
I am writing this on Election Day. So as I consider the state of our nation, and my place in it, I read the Old Testament lesson from Amos. (Click here for the lesson.)
Amos prophesied in the 8th century BC, about 200 years after King David. He began by pointing out the sins of the surrounding nations, a message that would endear him to his hearers. But then he turned the tables, telling the Israelites that they also are guilty. They, too, have worshiped and served other gods. They, too, have failed to live by God’s righteous commands. Suddenly, I suspect, he was not so popular.
It was a time of fairly strong nationalism in Israel, with a strong sense of their place as the chosen people of God. Amos’ message is that they cannot rest on their history. The rites that celebrate that history, the festivals, temple sacrifices, etc., have become abominable to God because they are no longer backed up by the behavior God called them to. It is not enough to claim the heritage, even to celebrate it, unless the people are prepared to “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)
America has always had a pretty strong nationalist* streak, in some corners almost a sense of divine appointment to a special role in the world. While I do not buy into the so-called “manifest destiny” doctrine, I do think that with great power comes great responsibility. Our military and economic strength should not be seen as a source of privilege or a sure sign of God’s approval, but a place of responsibility.
Nationalism is not new. The challenge before the Christian community, across the denominations, is to be a people that “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream” in our own lives, then to work for justice and righteousness to characterize our communities and our nation. But it must begin at home. Right here, where we live.
(Preaching to myself, here) I shouldn’t complain that “Washington” doesn’t get stuff done if I’m not prepared to do it in my own sphere of influence. I can’t expect someone else to step in and fix injustice unless I am prepared to step into the breach myself and work to be a peacemaker. I shouldn’t expect the government to take care of those in need if I am not willing to help those in my own sphere.
Whoever is President when the dust settles, my prayer is that we will each strive to be people serving justice and righteousness in our own circles first, knowing that by God’s grace it can spread from there. Indeed, that is the only place it can begin.
What can you do for justice and righteousness?
This column appeared in the November 8, 2020 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.