Every leader will face treachery and disloyalty, at some point. Jesus said to expect it. In the churches we’ve served, my husband and I experienced betrayals of varying degrees. I recall one group of people who broke our hearts. Seven families joined our membership simultaneously, all with similar testimonies. “Your ministry showed me that I was living a religious life but not a Christian one. I never knew Bible study, worship and walking with God could be like this. I’m all in and I want to serve in God however I can.” I think that’s a fair compilation of what these families spoke to us.
True to their word, each of them became committed attenders and involved in ministry. They frequently told us both how much we, and our church, meant to them. Several served on the church board. Sadly, within that church existed a small but poisonous group who, from all accounts, opposed previous pastors. Over the next few years, they deliberately, methodically, planted evil reports about Ken and me into the minds of these families, new to the spiritual ability to discern.
We both noticed a lack of warmth from our formerly passionate co-laborers and friends. By this time the church had grown so significantly, (our Divisive Debbies simply couldn’t keep up with all the new folks and poison everyone’s minds, thank God) it took us some time to notice the shift in loyalties. They stepped down from ministries, their attendance grew sketchy, then all but one of the seven families left the church. When we followed up, they struggled to explain their reasons for turning away. On a side note, I will testify to the power of an evil report.
I thought of those families when I read Amos 3:1-2. “I brought you up out of Egypt: You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth…” Ken and I invested the best of our time and energy into creating environments that grew disciples. Those seven families joined our church because of what they observed God doing through us. They wanted in. Prior to that, some of them didn’t know Christ personally and others lived in bondage and religion. We thought we shared a special bond, one that would last longer than a few years.
The pain Ken and I felt from their betrayal, is a raindrop compared to the grief Israel’s betrayal caused God. After all he did to lift them from slavery and establish them in their own prosperous country, they faltered in loyalty. The Northern kingdom of Israel, to whom God called Amos, experienced tremendous prosperity and influence under Jehovah’s hand of blessing. Instead of showing gratitude with faithful, holy living, they turned to false gods, oppressed the poor, slid into immorality, became greedy and miserly, twisted the court system to favor the rich and rejected God’s prophets. Does this sound eerily like any culture with which you are familiar?
The timelessness of Amos’ cry for repentance calls out to today’s nations and the body of Christ. A nation will change when the body of Christ within repents. We are the moral compass of any society. When unbelievers observe the Truth living in us, it becomes light and salt to their dark, decaying lives. Take the time to read straight through Amos and feel the power of God’s anger towards Israel who became darkness and decay themselves. Many vivid word pictures describe his wrath. “Now then, I will crush you as a cart crushes when loaded with grain…” found in chapter two is but one that talks about God destroying his beloved, chosen nation.
We are fools, if we think that his anger will not flash towards his chosen, royal priesthood, if they engage themselves in the same sins. Kingdom voices, wiser than mine, do not believe God is about to destroy America. He is, however, right now rolling out judgement and justice against his people and against systems of men in ways we’ve not seen in many decades. The Lion of Judah is roaring.
Those walking righteous, upright lives will be preserved while the wicked will be destroyed. Don’t assume that because many seem to be rushing forward with evil behavior that they will be allowed to continue that way. Our role as believers, is consistently speaking and living truth with grace. Remember, grace without truth is license and not God’s way. He will hold us accountable with how we’ve dealt with the wicked around us. “When I (God) say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.” Ezekiel 3:18 Whoa.
He also expects us to come alongside believers trapped in sin and at least attempt rescue missions. Some folks will choose to drown but we must stop making excuses for sin in the body or assuming someone else will deal with it. “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2
Church leaders involved in secret sin are being exposed. I believe that others involved in open apostasy and heresy are living on borrowed time. God’s grace does not override his judgement, particularly for pastors and leaders who lead the flock astray. (2 Timothy 4:3-4, Jeremiah 23:1) For every Christ follower, carelessness with sin and companionship with the world ignores the relentless clock ticking ever closer to our individual last earthly day or our collective meet-up with him in the air.
In closing let me share a quote from American theologian, Albert Barnes, sharing his interpretation of Amos 3:2:
“Nearness to God is a priceless, but an awesome gift. The most intense blessing becomes, by the abuse of free will, the most dreadful woe. For the nearer God places anyone to His own light, the more malignant is the choice of darkness instead of light. The more clearly anyone knows the relation to God, in which God has placed him, the more terrible is his rejection of God. The more God reveals to any, what He is, His essential perfections, His holiness and love, the more utter, tearful malignity it is to have been brought face to face with God, and to have by our deeds said to Him, “On Thy terms, I will have none of Thee.”