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Story Archives: Perhaps tough love is what we need the most
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|Perhaps tough love is what we need the most|
In the Old Testament there is a prophet by the name Amos. I must warn you: if you need encouragement and affirmation, you may want to bypass Amos. It is obvious that "warm and fuzzy" is not his forte. Even though the book is full of judgment and whistle-blowing, he continuously reminds the reader of the power and majesty of God. To his credit, he also offers a message of hope and a promise of restoration, but one must wait until the last chapter to find it.
As it turns out, during the days of Amos, Israel has experienced many political changes. Long gone are the glory days of King David and King Solomon. There is now a division between Israel and Judah. Divine wisdom has gradually been replaced with political struggles and the country's infrastructure has been negatively affected. Small businesses have become the property of the wealthy. The weak are exploited and justice is being manipulated. Even though the people offer limited acts of kindness and appear to have very little consideration for God, they seem confident and optimistic.
This is where the prophet Amos comes in. He goes from herding sheep and tending to the sycamore-fig trees to boldly delivering a message from God concerning the complacency of His people. Amos is the one who gives that famous line, "Prepare to Meet Your God." I have always imagined it to be a deep tone with an echo — one that would make James Earl Jones sit up and take notice. Personally, I think the message would have been a tad easier to swallow if it had been presented in a friendlier, more considerate tone — maybe something like Nat King Cole's "Straighten Up and Fly Right." After all, isn't that the point he's trying to make?
Then again, have you ever noticed how parents react when they see their toddler running towards the street? Does the parent softly whisper, "Precious Child, if you don't mind my interrupting, you might want to consider running in a different direction."? I don't think so.
Most parents I know will do whatever it takes to stop the child. They will use all the parental authority they possess. I have even seen a father scoop the child in his arms so quickly the child cries from fear of what the father is doing. It's obvious that the father is more concerned with preventing tragedy than hurt feelings or bruised egos.
I know a man whose young son's life was saved by a kidney transplant. Even though this child who was once so sick now feels good, he feels as though his parents are extremely cruel and unjust. Everyday he has to drink at least 72 ounces of water. If he rebels, he is punished. The parents have been known to take away the child's video games and television privileges until the entire 72 ounces of water are consumed.
Why would such nice parents act in such a cruel and dominating manner? Is it possible the child doesn't realize what is at stake? Is it possible that these parents go to such extreme measures because they love their son? Of course they love him. The father wants his son to live a healthy and prosperous life. As a matter of fact, it was the father who donated a kidney to save the young child's life.
As I consider what this father did, and is doing, for his son, I can't help but reconsider Amos' statement. When I stop to think about it, I am truly amazed that God would go to such lengths to train us and prepare us for the day that we will meet Him face to face. Maybe the next time we feel as though God is picking on us, we should look beyond our circumstance and realize how much He truly loves us and wants to protect us.
Jo Ann Cooper is a United Methodist pastor of the LA Conference.