By Chaplain Dave Lescalleet
And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
– Micah 6:8
In this simple verse the prophet Micah tells us: To walk humbly with God is to know him intimately and to be attentive to what he desires and loves. But what does ‘walking humbly with God’ consist of? The text tells us. We are to: “do justice and love mercy,” which seems, at first glance, to be two different things. But they are not.
Micah 6:8 is a summary of how Mercy and Justice are linked. It is a summary of how God wants us to live. The term for mercy comes from a Hebrew word that goes beyond mere forgiveness or simply showing compassion. It is a word that actually requires us to crawl deep inside the skin of another person and see life through his or her eyes. When we do this our hearts will begin to melt with mercy and we will better understand what they are going through. It is easier to be merciful when we wear the shoes of someone else and not spend our whole lives just wearing our own shoes. It is this kind of greater mercy that will also lead to greater justice.
The Hebrew word for justice can certainly be translated as “being just,” though it is more commonly translated as “being righteous.” It is a Hebrew word that refers to a life of right relationships. This means that Biblical justice/righteousness is inevitably “social,” because it is about our relationships with one another.
Yet when most modern people see the word righteousness in the Bible, they tend to think of it in narrow terms of private morality or private devotion. It is not less than that, but it goes much deeper. In the Bible, justice/righteousness refers to public day-to-day living in which a person conducts all relationships in family and society with fairness, generosity, and equity.
If we are to love our neighbors correctly, we must do so with a posture towards mercy and justice as defined by scripture. To put it another way, we must never separate these two concepts. To separate them results in a life that is not walking humbly before God.
Prayer: Almighty God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles, practice mercy and justice with one another. Way we love our neighbors as ourselves and that our lives would be marked by humility as we walk before you. Amen.