Dear Grace Church Family and Friends,
By far, one of my most very favorite verses of Scripture is Micah 6:8. “…what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?” It has been a favorite from the first time I read it many decades ago as a college student. At one point, when I was asked to choose a Scripture verse as a “life’s motto”, I initially chose this one. Eventually I chose Joshua 24:15 instead, “Choose this day whom you shall serve…but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” I felt then, and still do feel, that choosing to follow in humility, kindness, and justice, is a daily, perhaps hourly, need in my life.
Regarding the life requirement of Humility, I have often quoted this statement, “Have the humility to believe that you could be wrong.” If I were to amend that statement at all I would say, “Have the humility to accept that you are not the only one who is right.” In the following devotional from Bishop of Virginia, Porter Taylor, Micah 6:8 is examined with a twist: Humility must come first. I think he is right about the order of these three “requirements” of God in our
lives. Humility, then Kindness, are truly the beginning points for us in achieving God’s Justice. When we approach our challenges with humility first, then the other two will follow. Read on!
Humility — Kindness — Justice: A Rearranged Sequence
“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?” – Micah 6:8
I have read, meditated, taught, and preached on this passage many times, but it is only recently that I am beginning to understand what it has to teach me.
First, all three qualities must go together. If you do justice without kindness or humility, you are capable of being incredibly self-righteous as well as doing harm. If you do kindness without the other two, you will be nice, but ineffectual. Likewise, if you are humble without kindness or justice, you will devolve into a private ineffectual life.
Second, in my life, I have discovered that I need to reverse the sequence of this list because if I begin with doing justice, there’s a danger I never get to kindness or humility. I become a “Christian soldier marching on to war.” I focus on my own self-righteousness and can fall into a smugness about having the right vision for how everyone else should change their lives.
Therefore, we begin with humility. Bill W., one of the founders of A.A., wrote, “It was only by repeated humiliations that we were forced to learn something about humility. Where humility had formerly stood for a forced feeding of humble pie, it now begins to mean the nourishing ingredient which gives serenity.”
When we are humble, we realize we don’t have the answers, but through God’s grace we are connected to the One who is the answer. It’s why we walk humbly with our God. Humility reminds us that all of us are on a journey, and, therefore, our calling is not to blaze our own trail but to align ourselves with God’s desire for this broken world. We don’t need to be experts in how to fix the world; we need to be faithful people walking together in The Way. Norene
Vest wrote that humility is “facing the truth about our human condition, accepting our limitations, and cheerfully depending on God.” If we cheerfully depend on God, we surrender our self-righteousness and get out of the answer business and into to the disciple business.
Humility enables us to love kindness because we have moved away from our egocentric pose to trusting in God and opening up to God’s mercy. The Hebrew word for “loving kindness” is “chesed” which means, giving oneself fully, with love and compassion. In the film “Dead Man Walking”, Sister Helen Prejean says to a man on death row: “I’ll be the face of love for you,” and
she is. She reminds him that he is as a child of God regardless of his actions. This is why humility is the doorway to kindness. As the poet says, “Before you can know what kindness really is/ you must lose things/, feel the future dissolve in a moment/ like salt in a weakened broth.” (Naomi Shihab Nye, “Kindness”). Kindness enables us to realize that all of the gifts in our lives are grace and that everyone is a child of God worthy of our respect and attention.
Then we can do justice. Walter Brueggemann defines justice this way: “Justice is to sort out what belongs to whom and to return it to them…. So, God’s justice has a dynamic, transformative quality. It causes things to change, and it expects things must need to change if there is to be abundant life” (“Voices of the Night—Against Justice” in To Act Justly, Love Tenderly, Walk Humbly). Of course, justice is disruptive. Brueggemann goes on to observe that the work of justice is meant “to disrupt and dismantle the current ordering of things.” However, he adds that because God is “marked by steadfast love, compassion, faithfulness…God makes justice possible because there is a beginning again.”
As agents of justice, we must not only begin with humility and then turn to kindness as we engage this work, but we must also realize that this is a cycle that repeats itself over and over again. The work of justice is always about mutual conversion. It’s about knowing deep in our hearts that “All things come from Thee O Lord, and of Thine own have we given Thee” and
therefore a reallocation becomes possible.
Yes, let us be agents of justice, but let us realize at its root it’s about communal
conversion. Perhaps beginning with walking humbly; then embracing loving kindness will enable us to do the crucial work of justice.
Bishop Porter Taylor