360. reflection on Micah 6:8
One of my classes this semester is called Essential Community. It’s goal is to introduce students to the need for and complexities of creating a community where people can gather to know and to be known.
That sounds like a simple task on the surface, but there’s a pretty big difference between a group of people in a room and a community. The former can be likened to a party – fun and social but not particularly deep. The latter can be though of as people who come together to bless and to be blessed, to teach and to learn, to give and to receive.
One of the final assignments for the class is to write and deliver a sermonette on the verse, Micah 6:8 – the theme verse for the class.
…and I like what I came up with and so I thought I’d share it here.
8 He has shown all you people what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
I love the verbs used in Micah 6:8: do, love, walk.
I love that the call is to DO justice – justice as a verb. Here, justice not an abstract principle or idea, but justice is something done, something put into practice. Cornel West says that “justice is what love looks like in public” – and I would add that it’s what love looks like in the commons. [We spent a lot of time on the idea of the commons in class.]
But we have to be careful here because the pursuit of justice can lead to the diminishing of one’s enemy, of the oppressor. It can dehumanize the person or group perpetrating injustice and when dehumanization happens, any manner of retaliation can be justified – justice-ified.
Which brings us to the second verb, “love.”
And how are we to love? Mercifully. This is not tough love. It’s the opposite of that. This is tough forgiveness. And what’s the difference? Tough love is tough on the other, often under the guise of justice. Tough forgiveness, however, is tough on the self for the sake of the other. Because forgiveness, true forgiveness, is always hard on the self.
We are wronged in some deep, dark way and we demand that things are made right – an eye for an eye, or a heart for a heart broken. And we want justice. But justice unfettered by love hurts all involved. We wound the other in retaliation and in doing so, we wound ourselves.
But justice, tempered by love expressed in mercy calls forth life.
Which brings us, finally, to the verb, “walk.” And how are we to move through this world? We are called to walk humbly. And as Jesus’ second greatest commandment will remind us, we are also called to walk humbly with our neighbor, through the commons, through life.
Three verbs: do, love, walk.
Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly.
It all sounds so simple doesn’t it. But our time in class and with the readings has shown me that these verbs are anything but easy. Not easy to understand, not easy to implement, and certainly not easy to live. And we can be left feeling powerless or lost.
But I wonder if there’s actually a fourth verb in there. What if we saw the word, “with,” not as a preposition, but as a verb? “With” as an action, an activity. We don’t do or love or walk alone. We do them with. I do them with you. You do them with me. And we do them together with God. Can you feel the activity embedded in the word – it bristles with life lived out together.
Which makes me wonder if perhaps the most important verb in this verse is the verb, “with.”
And so, what does the LORD require of us?
To do, to love, to walk, and to with.