Letting Justice Roll
Years ago Matt Redman wrote a song called Mission’s Flame. In the song he offers an appeal to the people of God to move beyond mere words and to let worship fuel the flame for missions—to let worship propel God’s people forward into action. He says,
Let worship be the fuel for mission’s flame
We’re going with a passion for Your name
We’re going for we care about Your praise
Send us out
Let worship be the heart of mission’s aim
To see the nations recognize Your fame
Till every tribe and tongue voices Your praise
Send us out
Redman projects an action-based purpose for the worship of God—to be the fuel that drives God’s people to go and make disciples. More often than not, however, worship resembles nothing of what Redman describes. If we sang what we believed, it would sound more like “Let worship be the food for my own soul. I’m not going anywhere so I’ll just enjoy the show!”
Have you ever wondered what must enter the mind of God when He observes His people paying Him plenty of lip service on Sundays, but then showing absolutely zero follow-through Monday through Saturday? Amos 5:21-24 gives us a glimpse into the mind and thoughts of God regarding this worship travesty.
“I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
The tone of these four verses is nothing short of severe. God, in His matchless glory, was reaching out to His people, helping them understand the gravity of the situation. Though their lips were offering praise, their hearts were offering nothing of the sort. Their songs had become noise. Their solemn assemblies were now carnivals. Social gatherings. Emotional experiences. Block parties where God received an invite just like anybody else, but wasn’t really expected to show.
Verse 24 offers a little insight into how their hearts had steered away. He says, “Let justice roll down like waters.” When the Bible speaks of justice here it is suggesting that the people of God must appropriate the mercy of God to a hurting world. This is the idea of being God’s hands and feet, and it is contingent upon the fact that our actions match what our lips profess.
God’s people knew nothing of justice during this time in history. They cared only about themselves. They were content paying lip service to God, singing Kumbaya, and checking the Sabbath worship checklist. But justice? That was the farthest thing from their mind. Missional living? Not a chance. God’s people had become nothing more than a holy huddle—a religious country club where insiders never left and outsiders were never welcome.
This is why God responded the way He did. He called their songs “noise.” He said He “hated” their religious gatherings and festivals. He would not accept their sacrifices because they were offered with lying hands and their songs were sung from lying lips.
When we translate the principles of this passage to the american church in 2014, we must honestly reflect on and answer the following questions: Am I content with the Sunday morning “shot in the arm,” where the message and music makes little difference in my life the remainder of the week, or do I truly allow the Sunday morning gathering to be the fuel that propels my missional lifestyle? Am I content to view the worship of God as simply another duty of the Christian life, or will I finally begin to align the words I profess with my lips with the actions I portray with my life? Will I reject the false image of the Sunday morning social club and embrace it as a community of disciples being sent out to make more disciples?
Many churches in the 80s and 90s placed signs in their parking lots that served as a missional reminder to members as they exited the property. It read, “You are now entering the mission field.” As cheesy as it may sound, we cannot escape the truth of that statement.
What if we viewed every Sunday as a commissioning to a week of missional living? What if, as we exited the property, our immediate thought was, “I am entering my mission field. Here we go. Let’s do this!” I believe if we adopted that mindset we would see our cities changed with the power of the Gospel.