Read Amos 5:12-15
12 For I know the vast number of your sins
and the depth of your rebellions.
You oppress good people by taking bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
13 So those who are smart keep their mouths shut,
for it is an evil time.
14 Do what is good and run from evil
so that you may live!
Then the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies will be your helper,
just as you have claimed.
15 Hate evil and love what is good;
turn your courts into true halls of justice.
Perhaps even yet the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies
will have mercy on the remnant of his people. (NLT)
One of the more notable church figures in South American in recent times was Archbishop Helder Camara who worked in Brazil. He was prominent in his advocacy for the poor and marginalised. He once said that when he gave food to the poor people he was called a saint. When he asked why those people were poor, he was called a communist.
While Christians are called on to help the poor, we are also called on to question social structures that intensify poverty and promote injustice. Prophets like Amos poured scorn on those who would ‘privatise’ faith so that it became merely a matter of personal devotion. To claim to follow a God of justice and mercy and not to challenge the forces of corruption and greed would be to be guilty of gross hypocrisy.
There are Christians who feel we ought not to seek to radically change society, believing we always have the poor with us and our aim is to offer eternal life rather than social change for the better. But this is a false choice. Of course we have more to offer than a better world here and now. Yet it doesn’t mean we can’t work for change here and now. Love demands it, prophets like Amos demand it.
We will never get a perfect world this side of the second coming. But Jesus wants us to live out his kingdom values, to reflect his own concerns. We are to be amongst those pushing for more radical change in our God-denying society. That doesn’t make us communists; it just makes us Christians.