He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NKJV)This is one of my all time favorite scripture passages. I guess I love this verse because of it's universal and timeless message. It tells us that God has shown us 'what is good' and 'what He requires'. It doesn't give us a list of "Do's and Don'ts" but communicates a code to us ... a code of living. This code has three elements.
Justice: What do you think it means to "do justly"? I think that it could mean to act with integrity. I think that integrity is the cornerstone of personal justice. Here is a New Testament definition of integrity that I like:
Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:17 NASB)This definition encompasses the both sides of integrity. Often sin is defined as simply giving in to temptation and does not address our sins of omission. Justice on a personal level is all about acting in accordance with our conscience. For a believer the conscience is that place in our hearts where courage and wisdom lives. Acting in accord with conscience is not reacting to feelings of guilt or shame - it is not reacting at all. To "do justice" is to "act" with wisdom and courage ... often in the defense of the weak, the poor and powerless ... but more often in accord with that deep part of us that "knows the right thing to do".
Mercy: Of all qualities in life this one trumps them all. Consider these verses:
For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13 NKJV)Here again we see a divine perspective about what is important in life. I think that mercy is one of the most proactive and positive words in our language. Someone with a heart attitude of mercy will be compassionate and caring. Our verse says something interesting though - its says to "love mercy". To be a merciful person you need to embrace mercy at a heart level ... it has to be so important to you that you can say "I love mercy"! This speaks to the preeminence of mercy to God and why it is the center of this code of living.
Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7 NKJV)
Humility: Isn't it interesting that this is the word that God uses when He speaks of "walking" with Him. Isn't it interesting that it doesn't tell us to walk humbly with your fellow man. It reminds me of what the bible says of Moses:
Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3 NKJV)Humility really has little to do with how we relate to each other but much to do with how we relate to God. A little further in the Numbers passage God speaks this way about Moses:
He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD.Moses' humility had its roots in his relationship to the Lord. His dealings with Pharaoh may not have come across as humble but in the truest sense of the word he was acting with extreme humility.
I think that all of these qualities are necessary to live well. Humility synthesizes justice and mercy into a balanced approach to life. Without humility justice can become self-righteous ... and without it mercy can look like someone with a martyr complex. Without a relationship to God humility can be false make you look weak and become an excuse for not acting with justice and mercy.
Mother Teresa comes to mind when I think of this code of living - she was woman who didn't judge the weak, the poor and powerless but showed mercy to them drawing a quiet humility from her relationship with God. This beautiful quote from her speaks to what it means to live by this code:
"Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work."God please grant us grace to live lives rich with justice, mercy and humility. Amen.