By Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline
6 “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 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?
I don’t know what to say about this passage. I’ve preached about it, I’ve written Bible studies about it, I’ve sung it, I’ve participated in Bible studies about it, I’ve quoted it to the point where people would probably prefer I stop doing so.
I love this passage.
Micah 6:8 is the closest thing to a thesis statement on what it is to be a Christian.
Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship of those three. Interrelated characteristics. Each of the three is distinct in function, but each one is supported by the other when done well and with intention.
To do justice one must first understand what that justice is. It requires us to see outside of ourselves, to look at the whole picture. It is to recognize injustice, even (especially) when the injustice is our own fault. To be able to do justice, one must humble themselves if they want to truly do so. And justice needs to be tempered with kindness. Justice requires kindness to all (love your enemies, of course). But it also requires kindness to those who suffer injustice. When the world tells us to be unkind to a certain person or group of people, it is the kindness that informs us that justice needs doing.
To love kindness one must absorb the principles of justice and humility. One must be humble because to be kind is to elevate the other. It is to lift up someone’s humanity and to hold it in great, gentle esteem. And if you have kindness without justice what you actually have is merely ‘niceness’. As a Midwesterner living in the Midwest, I feel it particularly important to point this out.
And humility requires a kindness to self. It requires us to understand that the way we think of ourselves is not because we are worthless, but because we care about the worth and value of others, being kind to ourselves and to others. Humility without that self-kindness is more akin to self-denial than true humility. But on the other hand, we need to also understand that humility can be a cudgel used to keep people from recognizing their worth. Groups with power and authority cause people to doubt themselves, to deny themselves, to turn against themselves, by telling them that they are not being humble. Justice is to know that the humility you exhibit is in honor of others, and never comes at the cost of who you are.
Justice, kindness and humility are worthy goals on their own. But I think what makes this passage so special is that it calls all three as requirements for our lives. These three things, disparate and interrelated, stand as a testament to the world that God wants for us all.
Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline