Eugene Cho

everyone needs to read this because maybe, this is actually about YOU and ME

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Everyone needs to read this.

Every Christian needs to read this. Every Christian, pastor, leader, community organizer, and influencer needs to read this.

Whatever tribe, denomination, or team your roll with; whatever term or word you’re comfortable with; small church or mega church; organic or online; reformed or monastic; conservative or liberal…blah blah blah.  You need to read this.

Why?

Because many of us think that God was addressing someone else when we read or preach Amos 5:21-24. You know…the other person, group, team, church;  That other misguided and self-righteous quasi-Christian, borderline heretic, and religious legalist; the other person on the fence on that hot theological issue; the other liberal or conservatives; that feminist or ultimate fighting Jesus lover, and on and on.

But maybe…just maybe, God is actually speaking to YOU and ME.

In reading this version of Amos from The Message, I’m convicted that he’s definitely speaking to me.

In today’s christian subculture, I’ve noticed that it’s really cool, hip, and trendy to say, think, or feel the following words:

  • Hate religion…Love Jesus
  • Religion sucks
  • Religion kills
  • It’s all about Jesus and that’s all that matters.

And on and on. And on that note, we point the fingers and make fun of “these folks.”

But what if…?

Makes me wonder if we’ve actually become the folks we supposedly prophetically speak against from our pulpits, sermons, and conferences except we have no idea because we’ve become blind to our own righteousness or schemes.

Grace. Humility. Gentleness. Justice. Jesus.

Read this.  What do you think?

I can’t stand your religious meetings.
I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.

I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.

I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.

I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?

Do you know what I want?

I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.

That’s what I want. That’s all I want.

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Filed under: bible, christianity, church, religion

38 Responses

  1. D C Cramer says:

    I appreciate your post and don’t want to make light of it, but the last couple lines from the Message translation sound strikingly similar to the Barrett Strong single, “Money (That’s What I Want).” :)

  2. steve s says:

    You’re right Eugene, this is about you!
    ;-)

  3. larryboatright says:

    thanks for sharing this… I needed this this morning. I appreciate your candidness to wrestle with things publically- really speaks to me and challenges me!
    Blessings!
    larryboatright

  4. Chris says:

    Gulp.

    Yes, this does speak to me. Thanks for posting this.

  5. Andy M says:

    It is easy to read scripture and put “them” in the place of the bad guy, and “us” in the place of the good guy. But it doesn’t change us, and it doesn’t help anybody.

    It is difficult to read scripture and put “us” in the place of the bad guy, and absorb the fact that “we” need to change, not “us” vs. “them”, but “we”. This approach will transform us and the whole world may never be the same.

  6. henryjz says:

    ouch! now i need to go eat some humble pie… thanks… i think

  7. Joni says:

    Thanks for giving me something to chew on. I read this over and over in 6 translations and with each one, the message got clearer and clearer and clearer for me personally.

  8. But noisy ego music is all I know how to do! Are you telling me I might lose my job? I don’t WANT to go back to doing 45 minute sets at the Velvet Iris!

    *fretting noisily*

  9. Dan Hauge says:

    It’s a good point, and it really fits with the overall pattern of Amos (Bible-studies Geek Alert): In the first couple chapters, Amos goes off on all these other nations, how they don’t follow God, and how they will be judged (in the historical/political realm). Then he pulls a trick and starts railing against Israel in exactly the same language. Point is, if you think these challenging teachings are just for ‘the other one’ then take a look at yourself and be careful.

  10. Jose Lopez says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Too often we get caught up in critizing others for their “misinterpretations” while ignoring our own baggage. Something to ruminate and pray over. Thanks again.

  11. Nourisha says:

    it’s like that song, if we are the body.” clearly we should be God’s hands and arms and ears and eyes and heart and character extended in this world. hard to do that when “you” are the center of your efforts. hmmm.

  12. Barry says:

    Good reminder. Thanks

  13. Kevin says:

    Powerful. I believe Jon Foreman’s “Instead of a Show” is based on this/ other parts of Amos.

  14. Kevin says:

    Correction: Isaiah

  15. sean says:

    We are both the problem & the solution. Justice & Mercy are not the answer, Jesus is; & the closer I draw near to him, the closer I’ll draw to his purpose for me & my life; & the closer I draw to his purpose for my life, the closer I’ll draw to expressing the Father’s desire towards the cosmic imbalance felt by sin. If every believer, by entering the school of discipleship with Jesus, prayed & obeyed, justice & mercy would be the hallmark of His people. Too, God has a plan to enact His Justice & Mercy on a global scale. If everyone lived out God’s plan for them I’m convinced world hunger (& other issues) would be over. Why? Because God has a plan, but it involves a people. But there’s the problem: Being a Christian & being a Disciple aren’t the same thing anymore.

  16. Liz says:

    “Let justice surge like water,
    and goodness like an unfailing stream.”

    I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the news stories of people taking desperate violent action against others, particularly their own family members and I wonder as Christians (or believers in truth of any religious background) how can we combat despair?

    This passage is a boost today. Thank you! Reading all your comments fills me with so much hope! Let us stay united in believing, hoping, and spreading goodness where so many a caught up in illusions of darkness.

  17. DK says:

    totally agree with this passage.. one of our key passages in the justice NOW movement. for the record, religion does suck. :)

  18. Tim says:

    Being a Christian & being a Disciple aren’t the same thing anymore.

    Well, I believe they are. If they are not in your life then change. Those who say they are Christian or disciples are neither if they do not do three things. Love, obey and believe. Read 1John.

    Religion doesn’t suck either. I has received a bad rap from our forefather’s and our own behavior. I”m guilty as probably are you. You brush your teeth everyday, that’s religious, “IF” you read the Bible for instruction everyday, that’s religious. If you take the time to commune with the One transcendent, omnipotent and wonderful Creator in whom Jesus is and confided as in the Father and Spirit, than you practice religion. It doesn’t suck, it’s life and the only life lived abundantly. Quick hacking on Christ, Christians and disciples and go be one in a loving, merciful, and ways that exemplify justice.

    When we do this people’s attitude toward religion, Christians and those who call themselves disciples change because of why? Because they brushed up against you. A religious, Christian disciple.

    God Rocks,
    Tim

  19. Eugene- i have a question, not trying to be a jerk (appreciated that message recently from you) i’m not getting why you’re critiquing the “reject religion/favor Jesus” crowd in a post that ends with a passage that to me seems to be saying a similar thing? can the “danger of religion” argument be overstated and used for divisiveness or for self-righteousness? Sure. but to know jesus is to take up his mission of action: love, mercy, justice, right? aren’t both the passage and the jesus first crowd warning against religion as a fortress vs. love, community and action? I don’t associate myself too closely with the “reject religion” viewpoint so i don’t feel an extreme need to defend it- it was just to say the two things seem complimentary, not at odds as you said. but maybe i missed the point?

    humbling passage, interesting translation though

  20. Jim says:

    First let me say that I love your blog and that you are a blessing to the city. Grace and Peace brother:

    But… I fundamentally disagree with the essence of this post.

    Religion is the problem. Jesus is the answer!
    It’s all about Jesus; “Instead of a Show”

    The Pharisees and Sadducees exhibited control over the hearts and minds of God’s chosen for far to long. With their religious formulaic rituals that made them feel “better” than other groups. Their loud prayers in the temple, there racist treatment of Samaritans and Gentiles.. Jesus came to fulfill the need for Mystery Religions. the ritual of men does not make anyone Holy or aid the Reclamation of Souls to God whatsoever.

    To simply obey is not enough. To follow the rule of law to the letter will still get you no where without Christ. The Law serves as a reminder that we need a savior.

    Some in our generation were raised with observance to religious “law” without a true example of what it means to be motivated by Christ’s Love. Our parents generation have become the sound of gongs and symbols. Many “Christians” in America have become the same as the Pharisees were in Jesus day. Some have become self-righteous rather than redeemed. The world can see right through the foolishness of American style Traditional holiness moment self righteousness. I will lump myself in with any American Denomination and apologize openly that as “Christians” WE SUCK! That is to say… We need a Savior.

    When we experiance Christs love we have less reason to relay on the religious law as a source for our Christian Identity. When we trully rely on Gods Grace for our identity we will be humbled into Meekness and Patience with the community around us.

    Christ should be our identity. Not Calvanist or Arminian Pre/Mid/ Dispensationalism, Non denomination v.s. Presbyterians v.s. Catholicism…

    All these man made axioms are damaging to Christ’s Church and should not be the focus of our conversation on weekend services serving the community at large. We should share the GOOD NEWS. and when we choose to Praise Him, Love Him, and Spread HIS fame we will grow in number daily just as the church in ACTS did.

    I agree with you in that our city needs Christ’s Love not more religious self loathing.

    In my experiance; when Paul said “all are sinners of which i am the worst” This is the message our city needs to hear. Christians being honest about our human weakness. About our need for a Savior.

    Holl’a Back!

  21. Sue says:

    I agree with the people who posted already indicating that the “Jesus only” movement actually supports the passage rather than running contrary to it. It’s those who run to religion and all the ‘organizing’ that is done in the name of Jesus that are being chastised here. I tend to agree with that sociologist, Max Weber, who wrote about the way in which organizations become ‘iron’ cages – more concerned about maintaining its own survival than staying true to the message or person who inspired it. It’s a conundrum that many well-meaning institutions face. I worked at a large international organization – ok since no here knows me – let me just say what it was, the United Nations. And I think the passage applies equally there as well. It was part of the reason I couldn’t stand it. Maybe the passage is meant to apply to every institution or place where God is not the center, or is not being worshipped in Spirit and truth? I found that where I worked, basically we had meetings to decide when we were next going to meet. There was a lot of pomp, circumstance and self-congratulation, but the people we were meeting to serve remained destitute and no hearts and lives really changed. Anyway, it’s a good passage to reflect on – as a way of viewing our role as followers of Christ. To realize that “what is important to people is,” often “not what is important to God.” I’ve been chewing on this particular passage for a while and it seems consistent with the passage you shared. Thanks for posting. I suppose this is awesome if it pierces our consciences, since it is testimony that “the Word is sharper than a two-edged sword”!

  22. Bill says:

    Thank you. I read this post while sitting in Speer Library after listening to an Obrey Hendricks lecture while attending a conference at PTS. Grace happens, I suppose. (BTW: Have not been back here since I finished my MDiv in 1984–reminds me of the video chronicle you provided on one of your return visits) Anyway, Hendricks said the same thing. As pastors we are so gravely connected to the establishment and preservations of the institutions we we create and give our selves too. But . . . at what price?

  23. Ryan says:

    I guess I need some clarification on what folks mean when they say “religion” as a detriment. Aren’t y’all just saying the institution of the church? I’ve certainly logged my hours with anti-church, anti-structure, anti-professional clergy (salaries), anti-religion friends. I guess I’ve come away unconvinced that this scene is any more relevant or effective in living out the gospel of the Kingdom any more than the institution of church. The risk for apathy, celebrity-making, ritual for the sake of ritual, and not pursuing justice and righteousness is just as high in a home, coffee shop or 10,000 square foot facility. I love this passage from Amos.

  24. eugenecho says:

    thanks for the comments and push backs.

    why do folks think that there’s an automatic distinction between religion and jesus?

    well,clearly there is but what’s the distinction between religion vs. jesusosity?

    if we end up commodifying, commercializing, and capitalizing on, with, and behind the name of jesus…isn’t this about us?

  25. ah, okay. good point. you pastors- you have an answer for everything ;)

  26. Pooba~ says:

    Did you see this…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NGx2sGM1aw

    Really SEE it…? Found it on another blog… and it says soooo much ! ! ! I watched it twice!

  27. [...] couple of days ago, Eugene Cho had this post on his blog. He mentioned Amos 5:21-24 and challenged to read it as if it were addressed to each of us. He [...]

  28. Andy M says:

    Reading the comments and looking back at Eugene’s post, and I think the point is that whether we are on the side of religion (institutions), or the side that says “religion sucks” and we just need Jesus, we tend to make it an “us” versus “them”.

    Historically, look at the protestant reformation. It was a protest against the institution of it’s day. It was the “religion sucks” movement of it’s day. And now it is just as much of a secured institution as the religion it protested against.

    That is what I think Eugene is pointing out in his post here, is that we can easily become the same kind of institutionalized-sucky religion that we keep protesting about.

  29. Joe Louthan says:

    Amos 5 always applies to us. It never not applies.

  30. Benny Salas says:

    eugene,
    I would even wrestle with the idea that Saying those words in particular does not cleary mean that we want a revolution, but a difference of definition as to what religion looks like. I think we have all religion if we have knowledge of God but of course not all can say they have relationship with God eternal. I appreciate the view that you have taken to further express the paradigm that our worldview has on those of faith and agree to a certain point that many, even myself are guilty of the selfishness that you have expressed.

    Thanks again Eugene….

  31. mikeraburn says:

    Reading the comments, I think some people have missed the point of this post.

    Scripture is NEVER a tool that I get to use to judge you with. Scripture is ALWAYS the tool the Holy Spirit uses to convict me. The most I can do for you is share with you ways the Holy Spirit has convicted me, in case you’re in a similar place to where I was when the Holy Spirit spoke to me through his word about my sin.

    Religion is such an insidious problem precisely because we all have a tendency to fall into it, to replace the Father of Jesus Christ with an idol god of our own making, to find some way in which we earn salvation and get to control the situation. Every person will struggle with this. It is at its root the same sin Adam and Eve committed. In the end, we have to reject that idol (which is always some form of ourselves) and submit humbly to the real God, the only one who can save us and has done so by dying for us and thereby enabling and teaching us how to die to ourselves.

    At least I think this was the original point. If so, I concur.

  32. LT says:

    Good word bro.
    Thanks.
    Always a struggle but alas grace.
    Oh to be more Jesus-ish.

  33. Liz says:

    Eugene – perhaps this passage, like many, speaks to some one way and to others another way – depending on what’s going on at the moment – but for me it reminds me that I have to struggle a lot not to become just another form of what has made me distance myself from the conservative evangelical church/culture. The prideful certainty, the selfcenteredness, the exclusion, the harsh judgement, the cold hearts are some of the things that turned me off. I struggle not to embody those very same characteristics but from a different perspective. It is an ongoing, daily battle to not do the things I don’t want to do and to do the things I want to do.

  34. Steven Kim says:

    The “movement” against organized religion seems to generally stem from those who value individuality over community – meaning, there is this underlying rebellious nature in any movement against anything that is organized. Even the infamous Woodstock concert attended by tens of thousands of free-loving, free-willing, or just stoned out of their minds, took some serious organization by those had experience running an organized activity.

    The key to any form of rebellion seems to derive from individualism and the need to express it. Many who feel marginalized by society, be it in schools, community, churches, etc., are brought to a point of rebellion, overtly or covertly. I try not to buy into folks who rant and argue against organized religion because I am wary of their selfish motivations. Rather, I want to show grace by taking time to understand those who are “rebelling.”

    I may seem to be digressing from the OP’s point, but I don’t think we need to focus on the semantics or slogans of the day or even being critical of those who are evidently being critical. Afterall, Jesus did implore us to be “righteously” judgmental (rebuke) and be gracious at the same time!

    In the meantime, all of us need to be mindful of one of the most important teachings of Jesus: (Mark 1:15) “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; REPENT, and believe in the gospel.” All of us Christians need to continuously repent of the sins in our lives. This would really take care of everything.

  35. jchenwa says:

    My 3 cents on this, maybe it really isn’t a slam on our religious services. Maybe the words are saying that we should live just and fair lives 24-7-365 and NOT just come to the temple on Sunday and worship. Maybe we need to examine our daily and see if there are things that GOD wants us to change or let go. For example, if you are a businessman, are your dealings 100% honest and honoring to the LORD? Are you selling a good product? Or maybe it’s about obedience? Is the LORD calling you out of business into ministry?

  36. [...] towards laws, bylaws, rules, behavior, buildings, money, personal fame, and the like. This is why I read this [...]

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