For thus Amos has said,
"'Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'" And Amaziah said to Amos, "O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom."
For the first time in many years and only the second time ever, I spent Independence Day in another country this year. This meant I got to skip the uncomfortable (but important) tension of how much our national pride influences worship and how much our faith should inform and shape our personal patriotism. Scripture is full of reminders that our leaders should be guided by their morals and faith as they seek to serve as humble public servants. However, we sometimes forget that it contains warnings about the encroachment of our secular governments into our houses of faith.
If Jesus Christ is Lord of all, he's lord of every part of our lives. This has been dangerous to princes and powers throughout history when our faith challenged the evils of slavery, genocide, racism and sexism, and more. However, if our rulers become rulers of everything, they can begin to set the rules and endanger our faith. It can challenge the articles of our faith like everyone being a beloved child of God or love for our neighbors, our enemies, for all. I was thinking about the Fourth of July when I chose to study Amos for our youth bible study this week. I wasn't prepared for how relevant its exact words would become by the time I taught the lesson yesterday.
Our youth immediately recognized the words from the corrupted priest Amaziah to the prophet Amos in the words we read. In their recall, "Go back where you came from back in Judah. You're not a real Israelite, if you challenge our behavior and our king. This is his temple." He says it's the royal temple, implying it is not God's. (Bethel, the place Jacob had seen angels ascending and descending from heaven literally means "House of God") When our houses of worship echo the words of our secular leaders over those of God's word, they become royal temples, government property. Not God's house. It is clear that this challenge is not new and that we are called like Amos to say what may be unpopular - a message of love for all - even our enemies.