Micah 6:8 has been looping in my head lately, to the point of tattoo obsession: “What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV). This verse wouldn’t have come as a surprise to the Israelites. It was a reminder that all their focus on offering sacrifices was moot if they weren’t following God on a moment-by-moment basis. For us, it’s a lovely reminder that following Christ isn’t a weekly Sunday church thing or a daily morning Quiet Time thing, but rather an all-the-time, in-everything thing. Our select sacrifices of our time and money to God aren’t what he requires of us. He wants us to be just, and merciful, and humble.
This is about the same thing you’ve heard a million times before, right?
Here’s the problem with it: You’re not doing it. You’re not fighting for justice. You’re not showing mercy in love. And you’re not humbly walking out your faith. I’ve noticed it and everyone around you has noticed it. Those Facebook stories you post, those emails you forward, those tirades you go on, those snide comments you make under your breath, those offensive jokes you tell everyone in the room, those sneers on your face–they’re all character witnesses of hatred testifying against you as a follower of Christ.
But here’s what really sucks about all this: I do it too. Like almost all lessons God teaches me, when he opens my eyes to the faults of those around me, it’s usually to point out those same faults in myself.
God taught me all about showing grace, and I was getting pretty darn good at it. Until, that is, I ran into someone who refused to show grace to others. Not just one person–I know entire communities built on showing grace only to those people they believe deserve it. I hit a wall. I was filled with furious, semi-righteous anger. I wanted to shake them and lecture them about how grace, by definition, isn’t deserved, and that we, as believers, are commanded to show grace and what they’re doing isn’t showing grace but merely picking and choosing who to help based on who fits into their pretty little microcosm of the world. (Because I use run-ons when I angrily shake people and lecture them.)
And God said, as usual, “Well, then lecture yourself too.”
If grace is, by definition, not deserved, who could deserve grace less than people who refuse to show it?
If spite of–and perhaps because of–your refusal to show grace or mercy or love, I must show you grace and mercy and love all the more.
I’m being completely honest here when I say I am still trying to work through this and figure out how to do these things. Because it’s hard. But how can I expect something of you that I’m unwilling to do myself?
In spite of you, I must act justly–toward you.
In spite of you, I must love mercy–and show it to you.
In spite of you, I must walk humbly–before you.
This is not about me and my personal offense at the things you do. This isn’t actually about you, either.
Micah 6:8 is a reactive verse, but it’s not reactive from me to you: it’s reactive from me to God. I do not focus on acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly because you do or don’t deserve these things from me. I focus on these things because I love the Lord my God with all my heart, and all my soul, and all my strength, and this is how I live that out.
God, remind me that this isn’t about me or anyone else. Remind me that all of this is about you, and how worthy you are to receive our lives as daily sacrifices for you. Let your Holy Spirit fill me with mercy that it will overflow on those around me. Please be quick to stop me when I act out of selfishness, injustice, or hatred. Thank you for your infinite patience with us.
What can we do to show grace to those who refuse to show it? How can we love mercy on a moment-by-moment basis?