"Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" [God] 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? - Micah 6:7-8
She wouldn't let it go! Almost weekly in our Wednesday Bible study, Ernesta would remind the gathered Spirit-in-the-Word seekers that the essence of the Judeo-Christian scripture was "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." "That's it!" she would say. On occasion I would make some satiric remark "That's easier than offering God a thousand rams or rivers of oil or my firstborn." They are some of the offerings the prophet Micah mentioned before his oft-quoted call for justice, kindness, and humble living. Ernesta would occasionally respond to my attempt at wit, "Being just, kind, and humble isn't easy!"
Micah's words were a condemnation of the hollow religious rituals that many of his hearers believed would please God. Micah cries out that God does not want blood offering rituals but rather the hearers' blood, sweat and tears in offering God righteous lives. And we don't have to look too far into the ChristiansScriptures to find Jesus' validation of Micah's challenge. That challenge is at the core of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount.
To do justice – What does that mean in our lives? Could it mean speaking up when something is said that is harmful or prejudicial toward another human being? Does it mean having a mindset that is always concerned about the community good over the welfare of a few?
To love kindness – What might this mean? Could it mean speaking and acting with compassion and not out of anger? Does it mean always having the heart of a peacemaker?
To walk humbly with God – How might this be lived out? Could it mean not passing judgment on others? Does it mean listening in order to understand the soul of the other person?
The more I think of it, outside of offering my firstborn, giving thousands of rams and rivers of oil would be easier.
And perhaps Ernesta was right! Micah's challenge needs to repeated again and again.
God of grace and goodness, amid my daily doings, speak to me about justice and kindness and humility. Amen.
Bob Naylor has served in parish and national staff ministries and now is the lead consultant for a clergy and church coaching and planning ministry, In Church Imagining. He is the author of a recently released book by Pilgrim Press, What Church Leaders REALLY Need to Know.