For Three…Even For Four
By Anthony Casperson

The bait and switch was quickly spoiled. In 2012, the video game Assassin’s Creed III had an opening scene where the player controlled a character who would defect from the group known as Assassins to the Templars, the enemy of every previous game in the series. The perspective then shifted to this defector’s son. From Haytham to Connor.

Part of the main story’s plot revolved around discussion of why Haytham abandoned his previous position to the enemy. And though he truly seemed to believe that the Assassins were just as much to blame as the Templars in the problems of the world, his words made little difference to me as I played the game. It just sounded like a big bad trying to do the whole “we’re not so different” speech.

The next year’s installment, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, continued to toy with the idea of the problems with the Assassins. Kinda a prequel, this game followed the grandfather of Haytham (named Edward) as he fell into a position among the Assassins. And this allowed him to suspect certain questionable aspects of the ways of the seeming good guys. Though again, with a “Well, we’ve all got some problems” kind of mentality.

But one of the next installments in the game series, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, dove deeply into understanding the sins of the Assassins. The player controls Shay, a former Assassin who turns to the Templars after a major disaster was caused by those he once called his brothers. And this time there is no second perspective. The Assassins take on the role of enemies in this game.

And I really started to understand the point that the seeming “good guys” of much of the series were not completely faultless. Sure, the Templars weren’t the best choice either, but it made me take a deep look at the sins of the Assassins throughout the series in a new light. And wonder what a truly good perspective might be.

It’s interesting that it took an examination from the enemy perspective to force an honest look at the less desirable aspects of the oft-used Assassin outlook. I could easily sweep a few minor problems under the rug when I was able to point at the bad guys as so much worse. But once I realized that I had been minimizing the true effect of those with whom I related, it became obvious that the one side was just as messed up as the other.

We do this all of the time. “Oh, at least I’m not as bad as (fill in the blank).” “Sure I might do this problematic thing once or twice, but I’m not doing it every day like ______.”

When it comes to we followers of Jesus, we often add an unspoken perspective of “Well, at least I pray for forgiveness after I sin, unlike those unbelievers.”

One of my favorite prophets deals with this type of thought. The book of Amos begins with it. The prophet had been sent to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, after those ten tribes rebelled against the Davidic line and sought other kings. Amos had been sent to speak toward their rebellion against God’s ways (in hope that they might repent), but needed to get past the defenses of the hard-hearted people.

And that would be difficult. So, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the prophet tries his own version of a bait and switch.

Amos stands in a public place and proclaims, “Thus says the Lord: ‘For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.’” Damascus being a national neighbor (and enemy) to Israel. He lists out many of the terrible deeds of those people in the verses following that opening salvo.

You can almost see the people of Israel peeping their heads out of their doors. What’s this guy talking about? He’s proclaiming judgement on people who hate us? Cool. Let’s listen some more.

The prophet smiles as he sees the bait take effect. And continues, “Thus says the Lord: ‘For three sins of Gaza, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.’” A Philistine city-state? Yeah, the Israelites would love to hear it. They’re standing outside now, nodding their heads as the prophet lays out the sinful actions of the Philistines.

Like a charismatic preacher with African ancestry, Amos finds his rhythm. His “Thus says the Lord: ‘For three sins of _______, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath’” hits enemy after enemy of the nation’s neighbors. Tyre. Edom. Ammon. Moab.

The crowd had to have grown. In size and fervor. Israelites rocking to the prophet’s cadence. “Amen” and “Hallelujah” shouted out as they raised their hands. Their thoughts pointed on the faults and failures of all of “those people.”

And then the prophet takes a step closer to home. “Thus says the Lord: ‘For three sins of Judah, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.’” They’re almost foaming at the mouth now. “Yeah, call God’s judgement on that kingdom we rebelled against. There’s a reason why we left.”

With this mob of people ready to point out judgement against every one of their enemies, Amos has one last word from the Lord. “Thus says the Lord: ‘For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.’”


What had been a celebration of hatred against their enemies became a giant collective gasp. The people now realize that judgement had just as much right to be placed on them. They too had rebelled against God. And in muted silence, they stand as God lays their sins out one after another through the prophet.

The whole rest of the book of Amos shows God’s continued call to repentance for the kingdom of Israel as he lays out the judgement set against them. But this opening sermon forced their perspective to not sweep their own sins under the rug as they call out others for similar actions.

There’s something for us to learn here.

It might be easy for us to witness the sins of those we assume to be enemies, but what we really need to do is quit minimizing our failures. Stop making excuses for ourselves when we want full blast judgement on others. That way, we can repent from our own rebellion with true clarity of focus. And find the better way.

If we don’t we might just end up with a prophet preaching a bait and switch to us to break through the walls that we built to blind us to our own sins.