By Ryan Diaz
“Don’t shoot the messenger!” The phrase is as old as Sophocles, an expression well-known by many a man and woman who have had to walk into a room with bad news. We know all too well what it feels like to be a bearer of bad news, to walk into a space and say that which no one wants to hear. In these moments, the messenger and message are conflated, and they become one. It’s why we loathe the weatherman who predicts bad weather and the kid in class who reminds the teacher of due homework. We can’t seem to separate the message from the messenger.
In Amos 7, Amos is all but kicked out of Israel for his prophetic words against the king and the inhabitants of the nation of Israel. Rather than look inward and consider his words, Amaziah forced Amos south, saying, “Go away, you seer! Flee to the land of Judah. Earn your living and give your prophecies there, but don’t ever prophesy at Bethel again” (Amos 7:12–13).
Amos’s prophecy was a scathing indictment of Israel, its king, and their oppression of the poor and vulnerable. Rather than repent, they blamed Amos—his words too harsh for the people to stomach. Throughout the history of Israel, prophets were ignored at the expense of the people. To heed a prophet’s words meant to repent and return to Yahweh and experience His redemption. Failing to heed the prophet’s words meant judgment, punishment, and eventually exile. In rejecting Amos, Israel sealed its fate, and their eventual exile serves as the sad end to a long tale of rebellion and injustice.
Yet like Amaziah, we, too, are often tempted to shut out the word of the Lord when it challenges our sin and brokenness. We quickly shut out those who, in love, call out our cycles of brokenness. In our current climate, we associate love with affirmation; anything else we consider a failure to love. But love also tells the truth; maturity is learning to heed those voices that speak out against our perpetual patterns of sin.
And just as we are called to heed those voices, we too must learn to speak truth within our communities, calling out the injustice we see and the patterns of sin that wound and harm those who cannot speak out for themselves. Only when we do that will we truly learn to love our neighbor, speaking the truth in love for the benefit of the body.