He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
Those of us who attended church in the 1980s are familiar with the musical version of this verse. As with any Scripture that is set to music and presented during “worship service,” however, it’s easy to sing the words without thinking, and be pretty much unable to read them without the melody playing in the background.
It’s worth slowing down, reading and re-reading this, however, to the point that the words come through, because it’s part of human existence, at some point in it, to cry out, “Just what is it You want me to DO, anyway?”
It all seems so complicated, but as this verse brings out, it comes down to three things:
1) Act Justly.
In a society where the norms of justice include finding for the plaintiff suing over the coffee being too hot, insisting that it’s the fault of the restaurant for not informing her that it would be so, the definition of justice does not align with God’s intention, if I may use that vastly overused word, “intention,” possibly, for the first time, in its correct context.
“Justice,” in God’s eyes, means that the widows are not homeless, the children are not exploited, the defenseless are not are not fooled and tricked and manipulated simply because they don’t have money to fight back.
“Justice” is not something to be bought, sold to the highest bidder, unable to be secured without the services of high-priced corporate magnates and lawyers who operate, not on the honor or truth of their client’s cause, but its profitability.
And while there is little that we can do, wholesale, about the injustice of man’s justice system, as individual Christians, we ourselves can be just. As with anything God asks us to do, this starts on a small, intimate level, within friends and family, by forgiving someone in that circle who has hurt us. Whether or not we have grounds to be angry, we can be just enough to acknowledge that we are not sinless ourselves, unable to hurt in the way we have been hurt.
On a wider spectrum, we extend justice to others, even strangers, by taking to heart the theoretical tenet of the U.S. justice system, that a person is innocent until determined to be guilty, and not convict someone, mentally or aloud in a group, based upon the limited, and very misleading, information we receive from newspapers and police reports.
2) Love Mercy.
“Mercy” brings to mind a conqueror standing over a vanquished foe, staying his hand from using the sword, which is all very dramatic, but tends to be out of the scope for most of us in our normal day.
Another word for mercy, however, is kindness, and all of us can remember benefiting from acts of that. The widows, orphans, defenseless, powerless, weak, and vulnerable come to mind, and while U.S. culture frowns upon weakness as a sin, it is a state of being that all humans, at some point, live through.
Whether we are medically challenged, physically weary, financially strapped, emotionally exhausted, or spiritually bereft (sick, tired, poor, overcome, or empty) we all, at some point, need kindness, understanding, grace, and just plain help from others — and indeed, those who don’t realize, recognize, or acknowledge this are the most to be pitied, because they haven’t yet learned that they are not omnipotent.
But if we have come to the point of realizing that we are mortal with finite powers, then we are in the right place to reach down to — not look down upon — those who are aching, whether or not they “brought it upon themselves” or “deserve everything they’re getting.”
That’s not the attitude we hope for when we’re down on the ground, groaning.
3) Walk humbly with your God.
Humility is a treasure that simply cannot be overstated. It is rare, however, that we actively pray for it because, quite frankly, the best way to achieve it is to be pushed down, rejected, set aside, kicked, ignored, discounted, overlooked, laughed at, spurned, and disdained.
Rare is the person who willingly puts himself into positions of participating in these experiences, but the good news is, life itself provides the opportunities. As creatures of free will, we have the option of reacting however we choose, and our default, as humans, is to be angry, bitter, confused, and thirsting for revenge.
Those of us who have lived through these reactions, however, know that they don’t solve the problem, and the person who winds up feeling the worst about it all, is ourselves. Once we have worked through the natural emotions that boil to the surface — and indeed, the best way to work through them is to present them before God, whether it is calmly (generally not so) or accompanied by shouting (He can handle it) — we are in a state of malleability in which the Master Potter can shape us into a better pot, one of clay, but capable of holding the richest treasures.
The best thing that rejection and pain teach us is that the answer does not lie in the approbation, praises, and encomiums of men, but in the love and acceptance of God — and God does not encourage, foment, or preen our pride. He shows us who and what we are, and loves us through it all, not condemning, but encouraging; not censuring, but teaching.
Walking humbly, with our God, is one of the best and most fulfilling things we can do.
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