Called to life of justice, love and service!
Text: Micah 6:8
He has told you, O mortal, what is good,
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice and to love kindness
and to walk humbly with your God?
This text asks us what the Lord requires of us. But I believe there are many different ways we can answer this question. The wide range of answers to this question helps us to be diverse, holistic, and inclusive, so that the passions, interests, and gifts of all God’s people can be realized.
Before we see how we can answer to this question, let us look at the context of this text:
Who is Micah and what is happening?
Based on the historical context of this text, Micah is a prophet from a small agricultural town south west of Jerusalem. His ministry overlaps that of Isaiah. But whereas Isaiah spoke primarily to the urban elite, Micah spoke to the regular folks in the suburbs or rural. Micah’s message calls the people to listen to the word of God. Repeatedly Micah says “Listen, you leaders,” “Listen to what the Lord says,” and “Listen, you people,” stressing that now is the time to pay attention. Much of Micah’s prophecy is judgment addressed to the capital cities of Judah and Israel, Jerusalem, and Samaria. Their leaders practiced and tolerated false doctrine that led to a false understanding of the character of God, and, as a result, there was injustice towards the lowly, mistreatment of women and children, unjust business practices, and exploitation of the poor, many of whom were rural dwellers, like Micah. The rich were living in luxury while the marginalized suffered to pay for extravagances for those in power. There was internal political pressure from corrupt kings, untrustworthy spiritual leadership, and external political pressures from nations that wanted to invade and take advantage of the people.
Does this sound familiar to us? Do such injustices exist in our communities today?
While Micah’s prophecy is dated 700s BCE, this text from the Hebrew Bible is still very relevant to us today.
As a result of these injustices, God is not pleased with the people. Therefore, Micah asks God a question:
He genuinely wants to know what God requires. What is humankind to offer between God’s judgment and its associated lament and the new restored and reconciled kingdom? To make right with you God, should I bring offerings? Sacrifices? My first born? (Micah 6:7) but God responds: “No, not your gifts, your words or even your most prized possession. I want you to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with me.” Micah 6:8
What then does it mean to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God?
God continues to speak to His people about what we are to do in the face of injustice, exploitation, racism and mistreatment of certain populations. The response of God to Micah is God’s response to us when we ask what is required of us today.
Sometimes I struggle to know what it means to do justice. How did I do justice this past week? What does it look like?
Justice has often been defined by being placed primarily in a political, economic, or judicial realm. By defining it this way, we make it difficult to identify that we are doing justice on a regular basis.
Our definition of justice is to create a world where all people have equal opportunity to fully develop the gifts that God has placed within them. To be just is a call to action—not to be silent or complacent when others, especially the most vulnerable, are abused, mistreated, in need, scorned or exploited.
While this does include the bigger political, judicial, and economic challenges we face, it can also include more basic activities, like a program that provides tutors so that kids in urban school settings have equal opportunities to learn to read as suburban kids. Justice is taking in a foster child. Justice is employing a young person coming out of prison…. not going too far from home, justice is holding an intercultural appropriate all people’s pantry, or working on making the sanctuary spaces accessible to everyone.
Our actions of justice flow from our inward transformation to become more like Christ. In our daily lives, we all have the opportunity to do justice with actions that help people help themselves. In this, we are creating an environment where people can thrive and achieve their full potential.
To love Mercy:
To love mercy is to show “hesed,” covenant faithfulness to one another. Micah 7:18 says God delights to show covenant faithfulness. It’s who God is. Only because God has shown us great mercy can we do the same for others. We are therefore called to practice justice mercifully. We should practice mercy justly. When we see need, pain, loss, discrimination, bias, fear, or wrongdoing we should respond with mercy, as God has shown us mercy.
To walk humbly:
To “walk humbly with God” is the basis for loving mercy and doing justice. Because of what God has done, we fully invest in healing the world around us through mercy and justice. Cultivating our walk with God provides the power and passion for us to fully engage—it grounds everything else we do.
The “walk” metaphor is used often in Scripture to describe the overall direction one’s life is heading.
In Deuteronomy, there are a number of references to walking in the way of the Lord, several psalms refer to a walk being blameless, and 1 John encourages us to walk in the light. This poetic picture envisions a comfortable relationship of presence with God and a life that fits into that path.
The adverb “humbly” moves us away from arrogance and the egocentric need to always be better than others, to the simple acceptance of the gifts that God has placed within us. The hymn “Trust and Obey” comes to my mind when I think of this:
“When we walk with the Lord in the light of his Word, what a glory he sheds on our way! While we do his good will, he abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.”
We humbly ask the Lord to help us, empower us, lead us, equip us. It will never be easy, especially on the road to reconciliation and justice but it is the road God calls us to walk.
Questions to ponder
- What does the Lord desire for you?
- What gifts and abilities has God given you for that?
- How can you step outside your comfort zone to other areas the Lord may be desiring for you?
- What are ways you can make Micah 6:8 an action in your life?
Today being laity Sunday,
As a Deaconess, I have found myself being asked, why did you choose to serve as a laity and not a clergy? My simple has always been; I do not know. What I know is I answered to Micah 6:8 question.
Pastor Stephanie and Pastor Peter are the only clergy here; the rest we are laity. And as laity, through the leadership of our pastors we support the church and community in living Micah 6:8
In addition, in our UMC, there are opportunities for every lay person who feel called into more service as a lay preacher, lay minister, lay servant or deaconess or home missioner…these are lay people like you and me who get theological training or professional development and get certified or consecrated into service of love, justice, mercy and walking humbly with God.
For instance, as a Deaconess…I was trained during my candidacy and got consecrated into lifetime ministry of love justice and service. Girls empowerment project in Kenya is one of my ministries, and helping in the church where as needed is another ministry. I gate a vote and a voice to represent my local church at the district and annual conference. So I feel humbled to be a voice and take actions on matters decide that impact out church and community.
God entrusted us with gifts and abilities!
As Mathew 5:14-16 says;
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. People do not light a lamp and put it under the bushel basket; rather, they put it on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
We are the light of the world,
May by living as per Micah 6:8, help our light to shine to everyone. Do not hide that gift or ability under the table…let it shine.