Micah 6:6-8 (ESV)
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 man, 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?
Have you ever wondered if we make the faith a harder thing than God did? I certainly think it is true. We talk about spiritual disciplines, about evangelistic zeal, and about being radical. We find a particular spiritual cause or practice to be good and helpful for us, and then we demand that it become a major part of every Christian’s life. But how many of us can commit ourselves to memorizing whole books of the Bible, ending abortion, defeating human trafficking, feeding the homeless, winning our neighborhoods and workplaces for Jesus, having a date night every week with our wives, spending individual days with each child in our family, visiting the elderly in nursing homes, mentoring students, reading the Puritans, studying systematic theology, promoting international adoption, studying biblical theology, promoting Christian involvement in politics, studying church history, coaching a sports team to build relationships, having an accountability group, going on prayer retreats, attending the latest conferences, preparing sermons and/or Bible studies, developing strategies for church growth, going on international mission trips, keeping up with old friends, figuring out the millennium, opening our homes too hospitality, and only eating foods that glorify God while exercising to keep our bodies fit as temples of the Holy Spirit?
All of what I just wrote in that last paragraph are good things to do. But, are all the things I just wrote required for every believer to be equally committed to in order to please God? I do not think so.
In Micah’s passage above, we see a set of people asking what they should do in order the please God. They want to know how far they have to go in order to make God happy with them. Micah’s answer blows our activity-driven Christianity out of the water.
Micah tells the people, on God’s behalf, that what God requires is that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with him. Doing justice, in the context of the passage, means that we avoid cruelty and cheating of others. It means that we avoid taking advantage of those in need. We do not crush people, sneaking around them to do them harm while we gain power and position for ourselves.
To love kindness is sort of the other side of the justice coin. We do not do others harm to get ahead. Instead, we show kindness to others. We help people in need when we can. We extend love to those who are hurting. We treat people, well, like we want to be treated.
The end of the passage wraps up with the call to walk humbly with our God. Here is where spiritual living in obedience to the commands of God is found. We obey God’s commands, otherwise we could not walk with him. But nothing about that phrase indicates a massive to-do list that stresses us to the max as we try to figure out how to squeeze every possible good thing that could be done into every possible second of our day for every possible day of our lives.
Interestingly, this passage is as if Micah has already seen something of the mind of Jesus. Our Lord told us that the greatest commandments in Scripture are that we love God with everything we have and that we love our neighbors as ourselves (cf. Mat. 22:37-40). Or, it seems like Micah has a grasp of the writings of the apostles in the epistles as they repeatedly tell Christians to love God, to love each other, and to live differently than a cruel and immoral world around them.
Don’t get me wrong. Of course I believe in living a productive, spiritually disciplined, evangelistic, non-lazy life. But I would say that a passage like this one reminds us that we are not ever going to earn the favor of God. Nor has God required that we try. Instead, the Lord tells us exactly what he intends to tell us. Do justice, love kindness, and walk with God humbly. That will probably mean that you cannot wrap your entire life around every good thing. That is OK. You are not made a child of God by doing good deeds anyway. Children of God who are forgiven and brought into his family come by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. So, trust Jesus, love Jesus, connect with a local church so you can love others in the family of God, obey God’s commands in a way that makes you look different than the lost world around you, and rest in the grace of the Lord who does not require complication in our faith.
So, Christian, as this season overwhelms us, let’s stop, breath, and give God thanks. He wants us love him and love others. Let’s do that well as we rest in his grace for his glory.