It’s interesting to me that a creature that would be absolutely terrifying in the real world has been plushified to the point that it’s entirely normal to see a child (or my wife) clutching it tightly. In fact, even the word “bear” has connotations of how scary it was to earlier humans. “Bear” comes from the Old English “bera”, which means “the brown one.” They used the term “bera” because they were petrified that using the real name for a bear would actually summon one that would, in turn, maul them to death.
I bet you are on the edge of your seat waiting to see how I manage to shoehorn Jesus into this one.
I started thinking about bears this week when I read Amos chapter 5. In it, Amos is relaying the word of the Lord to Israel. And it is not a happy word:
“Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river,righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
In American Christianity, we have a tendency to shy away from the wrath and righteous anger of God. We declaw Him the same way we have with our teddy bears. This passage seems to have particular relevance for us, as we have gotten very comfortable with the ritual of church.
But as Amos relays here, the Lord is not interested in empty assembly. If we are longing for the day of the Lord’s return, but are not spending our time letting “justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream”, then we are in truth longing for our own destruction.
Let me be clear- Jesus’ death on the cross is the full and total cost of our salvation. It is only our acceptance of this sacrifice that has any relevance to eternity. But we should continually ask ourselves:
Do we have the heart for justice and service of our community that God is looking for? Or are we going through motions that are culturally ingrained with hearts that resist the Lord?
So ask yourself, have we gotten comfortable in our worship? In our view of God? When we make God the teddy bear, we replace the righteous and dynamic God with a stale and ritualistic God.