We need to talk about sinning (@TheAlethiophile)

Single tree on the horrizonIt’s fair to say that Amos is hardly the most cheerful or hope-filled book. Chapter after chapter, verse after verse, we are greeted with statements of judgement and the promise of punishment. Hardly the portrayal of God that we like to sell to the world, is it? One way out of this dilemma is the solution Marcion came up with: to regard the God of the Old Testament as a different being to the God of the New Testament. Even without referencing Marcion, there has been a revival of sorts of this way of thinking, led by Richard Dawkins, and parroted ad nauseam by his acolytes.

To focus on the proclamations of judgement, though, rather misses the point. It takes us away from the real target of God’s wrath that Amos is announcing here: sin. It’s become a dirty word in many circles, to the extent that some have nearly abandoned it in favour of either euphemisms or simply avoiding the topic altogether. That abandonment has meat that it’s picked up, used and abused by conservative fundamentalists whose lopsided gospel, when mistaken for the real thing, puts many off christianity.

While it is right for us to shun sin, we shouldn’t shun talking about sin. To do so makes it an increasingly unfamiliar concept. Yet it is a concept that is at the heart of the christian faith. For at that heart is the cross, the main symbol of christian belief; even more so than the bread and wine of communion. And what is the cross if sin is ignored? It is an empty gesture. There is nothing to be redeemed, nothing to be conquered.

We may have our pet theories on the finer points of a theology of sin, such as Augustine’s concept of Original Sin which is accepted and rejected by vast numbers of christians across cultures, denominations and across history. Yet such pet theories should not detract from the everyday reality of sin. Nor should we try to distance ourselves from it, pretending it is only an extreme form of wrongdoing perpetrated by a small number of rapists, murderers and thieves. Sin is something that can be found on the train to work, in the local cafe, in living rooms all over the world, including mine.

Amos rarely speaks of judgement against individuals. It is the sin of nations and peoples which is highlighted here, including speaking to truth to power. How often have christians led or been a part of the cry against governments who act unjustly? Would many ministers of government be willing to read Amos 4:1-2 without fearing that they be considered a “cow of Bashan”? I think not.

“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on Mount Samaria, who oppress the poor and crush the needy, who say to their husbands, ‘Bring something to drink!’ The Lord God has sworn by his holiness: The time is surely coming upon you, when they shall take you away with meat hooks, even the last of you with fish hooks.”

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About TheAlethiophile

The Alethiophile is a blogger, bibliophile and accountant. Constantly looking for truth, he is quite often wrong. Having grown up in an evangelical baptist church in Bedfordshire, he is currently part of an Ichthus church in London. He is also fond of wearing stripey socks.