Faith: Walk humbly with your God
The text from Micah 6:8 asks us to imagine a new kind of world: A world full of mercy and justice, a world where people charge no interest, where they always keep their promises. The prophet says, “[God] has told you, human one, what is good and what the LORD requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God. (Common English Bible)
God is asking for nothing less than a reformation of our entire life and values. He asks us to fight our genetic heritage and imagine a new kind of life. Instead of seeking wealth or pride of place, we are asked to seek poverty and a lower place. Instead of seeking to make our lives easier, we are asked to embrace the mourning that comes from living a difficult life. We are to risk speaking out against a world of hatred and violence and claiming the Man of Nazareth as our hero and pacesetter. It will mean a life of difficulty and even persecution.
God reminds us over and over that the creation of absolute laws and rules are easier than mercy and peace, but mercy and peace will lead to a blessed world. Micah tells us that we are required to do justice, to love mercy—or faithful love, as the Common English Bible puts it—and to walk humbly with God.
Oftentimes we get that backwards. We love justice—at least when it is done to other people—and we do mercy. You see mercy is easy. It doesn’t require anything of us. We don’t have to face the ugly parts of ourselves. It gives us pleasant feelings of helping someone else. We get to look good in front of our neighbors.
Doing justice—in the biblical sense—is hard. Biblical justice isn’t about making sure you hand out a sentence for a crime and then the person is done and dusted. It is a whole lot harder than that. It requires us to look at ourselves, our society, the victim, and even the person who may have done the crime, and imagine a way forward where all of those groups can be better off afterwards.
So, justice isn’t about punishment. It is about reconciliation, and it isn’t always about crimes and criminals. Sometimes it starts with the person you are angry with, or the person you like least in the world, or the person who is most different from you and you don’t understand. It requires you to walk toward them and imagine yourself in their place. The old saying about walking a mile in their shoes is not anywhere near enough in the biblical idea. You must try as hard as you can to sink into their life, their skin and see the world through their eyes and feel their pains as if they were your very own, and then try your very best to do the thing that will remove that pain from their life without taking on the pain in your life or putting it on anyone else.
If that sounds hard, it is. That is the reason for the third part of Micah’s statement. We must walk humbly with God to do this. Only when we see each other and ourselves with God’s eyes will be able to see a way to take away each other’s pain. Only when we recognize the other person and ourselves as children of the earth, as the humble ones, the ones that are created of dust and return to dust will we be able to see our true worth and theirs. Only when we recognize that God has breathed life into their clay and ours will we bow before them and become able to do justice and give faithful love to them and receive it in return.
Rev. Deana Armstrong is the pastor of the First Congregational United Church of Christ, in Craig, Colorado.
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