After listening all week to stories of spiritual and other horrible varieties of abuse, along with accounts of indifference, passivity, cover-up, and outright complicity among Christians, I longed to hear a voice that fearlessly spoke out against these injustices.
I knew I could count on Old Testament prophets to shed the blazing light of truth on what I’ve been hearing. So I headed for the writings of the ancient prophet Amos and was heartened, not only to read his potent words, but also the the fearless voice of a 21st Century prophet.
Here are the sobering words of pastor/theologian/prophet Eugene Peterson, which I gladly share with you.
“More people are exploited and abused in the cause of religion than in any other way. Sex, money, and power all take a backseat to religion as a source of evil. Religion is the most dangerous energy source known to humankind. The moment a person (or government or religion or organization) is convinced that God is either ordering or sanctioning a cause or project, anything goes. The history, worldwide, of religion-fueled hate, killing, and oppression is staggering.
The biblical prophets are in the front line of those doing something about it.
The biblical prophets continue to be the most powerful and effective voices ever heard on this earth for keeping religion honest, humble, and compassionate. Prophets sniff out injustice, especially injustice that is dressed up in religious garb.They sniff it out a mile away. Prophets see through hypocrisy, especially hypocrisy that assumes a religious pose. Prophets are not impressed by position or power or authority. They aren’t taken in by numbers, size, or appearances of success.
They pay little attention to what men and women say about God or do for God. They listen to God and rigorously test all human language and action against what they hear. Among these prophets, Amos towers as defender of the downtrodden poor and accuser of the powerful rich who use God’s name to legitimize their sin.
None of us can be trusted in this business. If we pray and worship God and associate with others who likewise pray and worship God, we absolutely must keep company with these biblical prophets. We are required to submit all our words and acts to their passionate scrutiny to prevent the perversion of our religion into something self-serving. A spiritual life that doesn’t give a large place to the prophet-articulated justice will end up making us worse instead of better, separating us from God’s ways instead of drawing us into them.”—Eugene PetersonIntroduction to the Prophet Amos in The Message
Powerful! He's so right. We need more prophets like Amos today.
I love the quote: They pay little attention to what men and women say about God or do for God. They listen to God and rigorously test all human language and action against what they hear.
In addition to the OT prophets, we also have NT prophets that keep us on our toes as well. Here I'm thinking about Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, who was a prophet in the Jerusalem church, and was one of the two messengers that accompanied Paul back to Antioch after the Jerusalem Council. He has some tough things to say to those who pervert the Gospel of grace into a license for immorality and injustice. But in any case, we neglect the warnings and exhortations of the OT and NT prophets to our own peril.